New Zealand former Prime Minister Helen Clark has thrown her weight behind the cannabis legalization process, saying that criminalizing the substance is an injustice to thousands of users every year.
She adds that cannabis is not as bad for your health as other legal substances alcohol or tobacco. Her statement has been backed by a special panel’s work that was published yesterday.
Tight race for cannabis referendum
Clark’s comments come just shortly after a new poll showed a tight race for the cannabis referendum scheduled for September this year. According to the poll, 48 percent of New Zealanders support cannabis legalization for recreational use while 43 percent oppose it.
The former Prime Minister Helen Clark has previously supported a ‘yes’ vote. Speaking during a webinar today morning dubbed “The case for ‘yes,’” she Clark said:
Let’s get real here. This is a widely-used recreational drug that is less harmful to individual health than tobacco and alcohol. Most Kiwis will use it in their lifetime. They know their teeth don’t fall out and their hair doesn’t go green. Most people don’t use it very often, unlike alcohol.
The proposed cannabis legislation puts an age limit for cannabis possession and use at 20. It also includes health and education programs and redistribution of tax into harm reduction. It bans all marketing and advertisement of marijuana products and puts a limit on potency.
Clark believes that a regulated market would lead to quality control and ensure that buyers know what they’re buying.
It’s just a no-brainer to stop wasting our taxpayers’ money with police helicopters hovering over the Kiwi bush, hounding ordinary citizens who are having a joint of cannabis for recreation rather than a glass of wine. Let’s stop all that. Stop wasting the money on the police, the helicopters, the prosecutors, the courts, the jails. This has to be the worst use, actually, of what we waste taxpayers’ money on, Clark added.
Low-level cannabis offences
In 2018, more than two thousand people were charged with minor cannabis offences. This is according to a report by an expert panel of scientists, academics, health and social practitioners. The panel also found that Maori are three times more likely to be arrested charged with cannabis-related crimes than non-Maori.
According to Dr. Hine Elder, a psychiatrist at the University of Auckland who was also a member of the expert panel, there were 600-800 alcohol-related deaths in New Zealand annually – but there have been no known cases of cannabis-related deaths.
She added there was a sharp decline in use among 15-17 year-olds in Canada, which legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018. The upcoming referendum will give New Zealanders a chance to choose whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use or to continue with an unregulated market without control.