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Is it a medicinal issue?
No. Medicinal cannabis is legally available.
Is it a criminal issue?
Currently, yes. And it’s likely to continue to be so since organised crime will quickly work to find and take advantage of new commercial opportunities; for example, black market discounted pricing for the young and a higher potency product, including the problematic synthetic cannabis.
Is it a gateway drug?
There’s plenty of evidence to support this, though probably not for the educated middle-class social smokers who’ll be able to enjoy their legal smoke. It could well be the case, though, for the young and vulnerable.
Will it lighten the policing load?
Maybe. But there’ll be rules that will need to be policed and penalties to be imposed. Who will check that you haven’t been tempted to grow more than your allotted amount to on-sell? Or what you’re smoking in a public space. Black-market growing and supply will continue. There’ll undoubtedly be an increase in the offence of driving under the influence of drugs.
Is it an educational issue?
Undeniably so. There’s much evidence to support the negative impact on educational achievement for those under 20. It is harmful for adolescent brains.
But they won’t have access, will they?
In law, no, and there’s some evidence to suggest that young people are smoking less. But it will be readily available, even if it is only their parents’ legal, homegrown supply. From there it goes to school, the street or the mall to be shared with friends, buy favours or for a bit of cash in the pocket. More work for schools and the police?
Is it a health issue?
Most definitely. Particularly long-term mental health. What will the caseload be like for an already struggling mental health system? The industry will be interested in market growth for profit not public health.
But isn’t it healthier than tobacco and alcohol?
Both of these can be addictive, the former particularly so with significant physical health risks. But legalisation doesn’t replace these drugs, it just legalises another with its own attendant problems.
Surely it has less social impact than alcohol?
Yes and no. Cannabis remains in the system far longer than the hour a glass of alcohol does. It remains there for several days and up to a month for heavy users, impacting on job performance, decision-making and relationships.
Since “everybody” has smoked it at some time or other, isn’t the current legislation farcical?
That’s reminiscent of a teenager arguing with their parents about how “all my friends are allowed to, so why can’t I”.
Won’t the extra tax-take provide money to educate people, particularly the young, about the dangers and also fund the additional health costs?
Does this make sense? To legalise something to fund education about the drawbacks and to mitigate increased, often life-long, health issues.
How does it fit with the smoke-free New Zealand goal?
Certainly, it’s clear that prohibition does criminalise otherwise law-abiding citizens and gives the impression of targeting particular individuals. However, a revision of the current laws along the lines of de-penalising simple possession for those over 18 and increasing protection for those under that age might be a far better approach.