You’ll know if you’re a regular listener to this show that I’m of the vote no brigade.
No, I’m not on a moral crusade, although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with moral crusades.
I’m in the no camp because of all the mental health professionals I’ve spoken to who work at the coal face. The ones who have no agenda around cannabis other than trying to help clean up the harm it’s done to young people’s brains, and by young people I mean under 25’s. Remember the legal age limit here will be 20.
The psychiatrists and psychologists I’ve spoken to despair at the misinformation being peddled, the confusion that this is somehow a vote on medicinal – it isn’t. Or that it somehow will keep people out of prison - it won’t.
It won’t have anything to do with prosecutions and convictions because most of the very small number of people jailed for cannabis are either dealers, manufacturers, or have a string of other more serious convictions to go with it. You don’t get locked up for smoking a joint.
But the health professionals I’ve spoken to say all the arguments for legalisation do not balance out, on the scale of what it practically will cost the healthcare system and the stress it'll cause our mental health sector. A sector that is of course already stressed.
The other thing they tell me is that despite people’s best hopes, it is a gateway drug. Many of their patients are people who were just looking for bigger highs. Many of the patients they deal with say they wish they’d never touched the stuff.
So it’s not the legalising that’s problematic, it’s the normalising. That drugs are OK, that cannabis is not harmful, that as long as you smoke it legally and buy it from a government approved weed store, you’re all good.
What a message to send to young people, and I do note a lot of the pro campaigners happen to be people without children, who’ve never attempted to raise a young person.
So we want to be smokefree by 2025, but we’re happy to have people smoke weed?
Former detectives have warned the black market will boom as users look for more potent cannabis.
What confounds me is the people arguing for this, people like the Greens, are the same people who claim to be the champions of lower socio-economic society. Yet cannabis legalisation would unquestionably have the greatest impact on these groups and create more social harm. One former detective says ‘Our poor neighbourhoods would have a proliferation of pot shops which would cause devastation'.
We know from the government’s commissioned report into cannabis legalisation (the one they didn’t want released before the election) is that there’d be more than 400 weed shops throughout New Zealand. 117 would be spread around rural townships. If dairy’s are targets of crime for smokes, imagine weed shops.
So do I think we should legalise and normalise cannabis? No.
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
Breaking Views brings you expert commentary on topical political and policy issues. The views expressed are those of the author alone. The blog is administered by the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, an independent public policy think tank at NZCPR.com - register for the free weekly NZCPR newsletterHERE.