Politicians have promised us, the people of New Zealand a vote on whether to legalize cannabis in the next few years. Bill English, former Prime Minister of New Zealand was unequivocally against the liberalisation of any drug laws but, times are a changing! Current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of Labour has never publicly announced if she was in support or against, however, as a part of a larger party deal with the Greens, Ardern’s party must commit to holding a referendum on cannabis. So, will we see change soon?
Drug Laws in NZ
Cannabis in New Zealand is heavily mandated under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 which makes unauthorised possession illegal but medical authorised cannabis legal to help those who may be suffering from chronic or terminal illness. New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 is over 40 years old. It sets out the penalties and punishments for production, supply, and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. New Zealand has the 9th highest consumption of cannabis in the world and is the fourth most popular drug after alcohol, caffeine and tobacco and yet is still illegal on both sides on the island. It is obvious that having such legislation heavily mandated in a country where consumption is so high isn’t going to prevent people using the controlled substance. So, what can we, as a society do and what can our elected representatives do to change this archaic law.
Us, Kiwis are changing our opinions, every year in fact. A poll carried out by Curia Market Research shows that New Zealanders are in favour of cannabis decriminalisation or legislation for medical and recreational use. Here is a breakdown of that poll.
- 89% support for terminal pain relief
- 87% support for pain relief
- 67% support for personal possession
- 61% support for personal cultivation
- 38% support for selling from a store
- 30% support for growing for friends
This poll was conducted by Curia Market Research in July of 2018 – which only shows there is growing support for some sort of brand new legislation surrounding drug laws in New Zealand. There is an overwhelming 76% average support for change! However, there is no growing appetite for the sale of cannabis in a store in NZ. Much like how California in cannabis is taxed and sold in cannabis stores, Kiwi’s are not too fussed on that idea according to this poll.
Why the shift in support?
Our drug laws are not working. We have the ninth highest consumption of cannabis on the world in NZ. We have high levels of cannabis use here, we all know a mate who uses it for his sore back. 2 in 4 NZers have consumed cannabis in their lifetime at one stage. Having such harsh drug laws only criminalises users, specifically young New Zealanders and Maori. Chloe Swarbrick, MP for the Green Party said that the increase in support shows that views could shift with a debate informed by evidence. The Green Party are pathing the way for more open-minded conversations with the public regarding cannabis reform. Once a debate enriched in facts and statistics is established, that is when we will see the fire start for a referendum. Thanks to MP’s like Chloe Swarbrick and her fellow colleagues, they have created a New Zealand that is becoming more open to the idea of drug reform - for a safer New Zealand.
A referendum, soon?
A vote on legalising cannabis is on the horizon. However, the decision to hold it will affect its outcome, holding it in 2020 will be a poor political move with an incoming general election the same year. It could detract from other important political issues lawmakers feel strongly about. No matter when we get to vote, we could vote on a life-changing issue. It will act to protect society, rather than criminalising users and marginalising them to live on the fringes of society. Onward to a safer and greener country fellow Kiwis.