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Legalising cannabis is the most effective way of containing damage associated with the drug, University of Otago students have been told.

The argument was raised in a panel discussion yesterday organised by the Otago University Students’ Association that featured former prime minister Helen Clark, New Zealand Drug Foundation chairman Tuari Potiki and university researcher Reremoana Theodore.

"The most potent tool to reduce cannabis harm is by voting yes and legalising it,"
Mr Potiki said.

New Zealand had one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world but banning the drug had not worked, he said.

Mr Potiki reflected on a childhood memory — he was about 10 when his 18-year-old brother was caught with cannabis.

"He was a gentle soul and went to prison, and we nearly lost him."

Mr Potiki said he had cannabis convictions too, but had now been "off drugs for just over 30 years".

He worked as a drugs and alcohol clinician in prisons and is the University of Otago’s Maori development director.

Asked about whether decriminalisation might be a better approach, Mr Potiki said this allowed the black market to control the drug scene and it put "discretion in the hands of police".

Miss Clark called decriminalisation of cannabis an "unsatisfactory halfway house".

Legalising the drug would bring profits from it into the legal economy, she said.

Dr Theodore said studies showed cannabis had an impact on young adults’ brain development.

People aged under 20 who were caught with the drug would receive a "health-based response" under the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, she said.

Voters will be asked whether they support that Bill in a referendum being held at the same time as this month’s the general election.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

We have drugs. We all struggle to cope with their effects in our own or others lives. Unless we do not care, drugs are a big issue leading to violence, lethargy, carelessness, aimlessness, hopelessness, dishonestly, fraud, stealing and murder. Why add more access to another dangerous drug? It makes no sense and does not add to the health or welfare of NZ whatever.

How by legalising it does it become the most effective way of containing the damage of the drug. So they are saying it causes damage. What is that damage? It would create a small economy of sorts ...wow. So his gentle soul of a brother went to prison for it, was he a dealer?, no detail. Where is the evidence that shows NZ has one of the highest use of cannabis in the world. How can by voting yes reduce the harm? Any comments on the pyscological effects it creates, the lethargy it induces, the impaired driving it causes...as if we dont have enough deaths on the roads. Plenty of comment but little of substance on such an important issue. VOTE NO

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