Some Māori MPs are supporting a move by the Associate Health Minister to treat cannabis as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
Peter Dunne has indicated that he supports medical cannabis products – similar to how Australia is decriminalising cannabis for medicinal use.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says Mr Dunne is going in the right direction.
“I completely agree with Peter Dunne and I think he’s right - we’ve moved on now.
“And there’s no reason why people should be criminalised for their use of cannabis.
“If they have a problem, then they need to get help with problem of their use. But if people are sick and it’s helping them – then they should get access to it as medicine.
Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis agrees that the time is right to review the Misuse of Drugs Act.
“I agree with the idea that it should be a health issue rather than a criminal issue.
“All of us need to have a talk about the drug’s legal status.”
Māori males targeted for cannabis
Māori males are more prone to being stopped by police for possessing and using cannabis, Ms Turei said.
“For Māori in particular, so many Māori are in prison, convicted, searched even simply because the police believe they have cannabis on them.
“It’s a means to target Māori – particularly young Māori men.”
“I know of, and I’m getting fed up with, some of my relations who get thrown in jail just for smoking pot,” Kelvin Davis said.
“If we could just fine them instead perhaps that’s the track we should go down.”
Cannabis was long known for its medicinal properties until it was prohibited, Ms Turei said.
“Cannabis has been in use for hundreds and hundreds of years across the world. It’s only in recent times that it’s been made illegal.
“It’s the third most popular drug in the country, most people who want to smoke cannabis can and do, and we know that the prohibition of cannabis causes more harm to families than the cannabis itself.”
The Associate Health Minister, Peter Dunne, expects that New Zealand’s cannabis laws will change to match what’s been done in some states of Australia.
Queensland and Victoria are due to legalise cannabis for medicinal use next year.