Cannabis: I wish this referendum had a third option

Stuff co.nz 11 February 2019
Family First Comment: Interesting commentary
“As a parent, I am worried about the normalisation of weed – worried that it becomes as common and accepted as seeing a group of workers puffing on cigarettes on the street during smoko/vapo, or passing an outdoor bar filled with jolly drinkers. Some friends visiting from the legal-marijuana state of Colorado recently reported people openly smoking dope on the streets, despite public consumption remaining illegal.  The neighbourhoods around high schools, they said, generate plenty of afternoon business for local growers.  For my extended family in Illinois, where its medicinal use has been legal for two years and 2019 is likely to bring recreational legality, cannabis is easy to source and casually discussed in many circles.”

OPINION: When sex work was decriminalised in 2003, it made sense to me. Shining some legislative light on an industry that had functioned in regulatory darkness for millennia seemed the right thing to do, at last allowing health and safety standards, tax obligations, and employment laws into workspaces of the industry’s staff, clients and business owners.

By most accounts, the Prostitution Reform Act took the crime out of sex services in New Zealand.  After 15 years and many evaluations, including surveying sex workers, many now agree this contentious legislation has had a positive effect on, at least, the working environment and safety of sex workers and their clients.

Could cannabis users benefit from similar thinking?  Should we get the growth and sale of marijuana out of dank tinny houses and gang-controlled crops and into the light of our everyday?

Medicinal cannabis is a no-brainer; it’s alarming that such an effective pain relief didn’t hit the legitimate market decades ago.  Dealing with laws around its recreational use is much more vexed.

I have always liked the idea of regulating aspects of the sector to improve both the quality of the product and the conditions for people working in the sector. For example, if growers were part of a legitimate, not hidden, supply chain, government could ensure consumers are aware of the level of the crop’s THC – the plant’s active ingredient, responsible for most of its psychological effects. Governments around the world already regulate how alcohol and tobacco products are marketed so their alcohol and nicotine levels are known to buyers. The notion that a regulating structure could bring consistency to a drug used by 13 per cent of Kiwis (the UN Office on Drugs and Crime tells us) sounds as sensible as legitimising prostitution work.

But as discussion of cannabis legalisation increases after the government announcement of a binding referendum on the issue next year, and as my kids blast through adolescence surrounded by risks and distractions my generation never had to face, I have recently questioned my thinking.

As a parent, I am worried about the normalisation of weed – worried that it becomes as common and accepted as seeing a group of workers puffing on cigarettes on the street during smoko/vapo, or passing an outdoor bar filled with jolly drinkers. Some friends visiting from the legal-marijuana state of Colorado recently reported people openly smoking dope on the streets, despite public consumption remaining illegal.  The neighbourhoods around high schools, they said, generate plenty of afternoon business for local growers.  For my extended family in Illinois, where its medicinal use has been legal for two years and 2019 is likely to bring recreational legality, cannabis is easy to source and casually discussed in many circles.  If New Zealand follows the trend and votes yes in the referendum, having weed as part of our everyday lives is something we will have to be ready for.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/110448280/i-wish-this-referendum-had-a-third-option

facebook_icon

Share