OUSA to ask students whether it should sell weed

Otago University Students' Association president James Heath outside the newly refurbished...
Otago University Students' Association president James Heath outside the recently refurbished Starters Bar, in Dunedin. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
After seeking council support for cheaper alcohol on licensed premises, the Otago University Students' Association will ask students whether it should look into selling cannabis.

At the annual student general meeting this week, University of Otago students will get the chance to have their say on a number of issues, including possible sales of the drug if it is legalised.

OUSA president James Heath said the idea was raised by students.

"The SGM is a forum for students to discuss potential ideas for their student association - it's an open forum intending to create discussion," he said.

"There are currently no OUSA plans or stance on this, aside from encouraging discussion.

"More importantly, the wider SGM will be discussing a new OUSA constitution, new executive structure, and a range of other student-led questions."

The association is the owner of Starters Bar, and in May, during a presentation to the Dunedin City Council's annual plan hearing, asked the council to lobby the Government for cheaper alcohol in licensed premises.

OUSA argued drinking on licensed premises provided a safer environment for students than unregulated flat parties. The suggestion was not picked up during the plan process.

One of the university's own experts into the effects of cannabis, Associate Prof Joseph Boden, was strongly opposed to the association selling the drug and said he would advocate against it.

"I do not feel it's appropriate for the OUSA to promote either cannabis or alcohol use amongst the student body."

Associate Prof Boden said "for the record" he was also opposed to students' associations running bars.

His research had found that for young, regular users of cannabis, the drug could later affect their mental health, use of other drugs and earning potential.

However, he supported the Cabinet Paper's proposal to make 20 years old the age for cannabis sales.

"Twenty-five would be better, based on the science on brain development, but that would leave a gaping hole in demand for the black market to fill."

He noted if students did want the drug to be sold, the OUSA would still face obstacles, such as obtaining a licence.

A spokeswoman said the university had no comment at this time.

The forum is on Thursday between noon and 2pm.

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