The legalisation of cannabis is gaining momentum around the world, particularly in the United States. Legal sales in the country were US$5.4 billion (NZ$7.9b) in 2015, while they're expected to reach nearly US$22b (NZ$32b) by 2020.
Meanwhile, the state of Colorado made US$70m (NZ$100.7m) from cannabis and just US$42m (NZ$60.4m) from alcohol between July 2014 and June 2015. Colorado had to implement a cannabis tax holiday due to it raising too much money and its government is now looking at additional community projects it could fund.
There are many ways that New Zealand could benefit from legalisation.
Allow farmers in Northland, a region that's struggling economically, to grow hemp and cannabis plants to supply a legal regulated market and export industry. Sales will be taxed and restricted to those over age.
Hemp is a renewable natural resource and has many industrial uses. Hemp biodiesel burns cleaner than fuel derived from oil. This biodiesel could be used to fuel public transport vehicles. It would help save fuel costs and the air in congested city centres would become cleaner and healthier to breathe. The fuel could be sold to the trucking industry, which is expecting a boom in the coming years.
Textiles made from hemp could be used to build low-cost houses. Textiles could supply the local trade industry as an alternative to wood or brick. Hemp could be used for clothing. Jobs created from the industry would boost the economy where everyone would benefit.
There are rural communities relying on the benefit and there's a lot of unused farm land. Allow people to grow and harvest hemp to fuel and build our country and supply cannabis to a regulated market.
Tax revenue collected could be used to invest in neglected regional towns and develop ageing infrastructure.
Allow Kiwis to contribute and improve the economy and create a new industry. This would ease welfare pressure and help reduce national debt. An export industry in hemp could potentially be worth billions.
A former aide to ex-US president Richard Nixon has said the drug war was created to target far-left anti-war protestors and the black community. This gave them a legal reason to imprison activists. Alcohol and tobacco have always been associated with wealth, while governments spent a lot of time painting cannabis in a bad light.
Drug addicts should be dealt with compassionately and offered medical treatment as alcoholics are. They're both destructive when abused and cause considerable harm. Sending mentally unfit people to prison harms them psychologically. The New Zealand Drug Foundation supports a health-based approach instead of a criminal one.
Police Association boss Greg O'Connor supports the legalisation model used in the US state of Colorado, should legalisation happen here. Prohibition has done nothing to curb use. If cannabis was legal police could focus on criminal organisations and violent offenders, ensuring victims get justice. The only victims of cannabis use are the very people being arrested for using it. There is no justice in that.
A recent UMR survey showed 72% of Kiwis support legalising medicinal cannabis, however legalisation still leaves room for a recreational black market. Total legalisation is the only real option. Allow the government to control and regulate all sales while at the same time earning millions in additional taxes.
Former presidents and a former US attorney general have also advocated for the end of prohibition. This report should be read by anybody who still has doubts about legalisation.
Tobacco contains nicotine which hardens arteries and breaks down into N-Nitrosamine, a cancer-causing chemical. Cannabis does not. Nicotine's highly-addictive nature and short-lasting effects cause chain smoking. No cannabis user would smoke the equivalent of two packs of joints a day. While nicotine causes airways to constrict, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a bronchial dilator that opens the lungs and is used to stop asthma attacks.
Cannabis also actively fights cancer cells while tobacco only creates them. Cannabis mitigates the effects that smoking may cause and there has never been a case of lung cancer caused by cannabis use alone.
Although cannabis may have more tars in its smoke, smoking it is only one of many ways it can be consumed and the only way the tars are passed into the body. Tobacco passes its cancer-causing agents into the body no matter how it is consumed. Vapourising does not combust the cannabis plant. Instead heat is applied to vapourise the beneficial properties. This eliminates any smoke containing carcinogens and tars. Cannabis can also be consumed using edibles, wax, oils and creams.
There are concerns about the effect cannabis use has on children. If legalised, sales could be restricted to people over 21 and conducted similarly to tobacco and alcohol. Yes, children could still source cannabis just as they could alcohol and tobacco. Prohibition does not control the supply, but instead paves the way for a thriving black market.
Cannabis use does not lead users to harder drugs. A small minority may have dependence issues and this is where the health-based approach would be beneficial. The majority of users lead normal lives and are responsible users. The minority should not determine cannabis's legality.
If the government wants to help New Zealanders improve their lives then we need cannabis to be legalised. The change is happening. The change will happen.
- MICHAEL YOUNG