Addressing the legalization of cannabis

When Helen Kelly, trade unionist, mother and advocate for medical cannabis passed away, there was a major surge in support for its decriminalization. Ms Kelly, who had been fighting cancer had become a visible icon of a debate about whether or not to legalize the narcotic, and had galvanized the nation.

Prior to that, support for cannabis reform had been lukewarm. Widely considered to be something only the Greens and Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party would contemplate, the pain suffered by Ms Kelly and her candid interviews with media, where she talked openly about her use of it to free her from pain did much to swing the mood of the nation. Politicians from across the spectrum began to have second thoughts about whether reform was such a bad thing.

Political parties are divided on how to tackle this subject as the run down below shows:

  • New Zealand First favours a referendum
  • National supports the status quo, in that the work being done by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne is coming along just fine
  • A.C.T. is in favour of legalization, but does not believe the public support a repeal of the law
  • Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party supports full legalization for personal, medical, industrial and spiritual use
  • Conservative Party strongly opposes any legalization and will tighten penalties for anyone caught under the influence of or in possession of cannabis
  • Labour support legalizing medical cannabis, but does not think decriminalization will work
  • Greens support restricted ¬†personal use and the legalization of medical cannabis
  • Maori Party has not in the past supported reform, but has softened its stance in the last few months, calling for a conversation about the issue
  • Mana support access to medical cannabis but would ban tobacco and not permit personal use

I personally want medical cannabis made immediately available, which should be reinforced by a law change. I further believe that a referendum should be held to determine what the public wish to have happen with regards to other personal use of marijuana. Before then there needs to be an inquiry into the pros and cons of legalization, that also examines what changes to the law would need to happen.

Green M.P. Julie Anne Genter has a Bill of Parliament currently before the House, which seems to have significant cross party support. It would address the need for medical cannabis to be legalized.

However, I harbour concerns based on the experience of synthetic cannabis that there is significant potential for abuse. In saying that, the current war on drugs has demonstrably failed and it is time for a new approach, based on evidence and not ones personal conviction. The cost of waging it is time, money and resources that could be better used to help addicts and go after the much more destructive drugs – cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and so forth.

So, bring on the medical cannabis reform. Whilst we are doing that, we can consider the extent to which we want to reform the law and what sort of outcomes are going to be acceptable.

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