I just listened to a radio interview (online replay).. with an American cannabis advocate, who was in Aotearoa/NZ for the recent Drug conference. He was at the forefront of recent law reform in USA. Here is my take on the discussion (paraphrased) :
1) NZ is leading the world with a regulated ‘synthetic drug’ market (not including NATURAL cannabis)
2) NZ has amongst the highest levels of cannabis use (>50% of adults admit trying it.. about 20-25% use fairly regularly)
3) about a decade ago (under previous Govt.) law reform appeared to be ‘on the way’ BUT then ‘fell off the radar’.. NOW its just occasional talk, but very little/if no action (lots of ‘hui’ but no ‘dui’ !)
The interviewer kept asking “what is the evidence that a legal/regulated market would be better than the current regime.. especially for harm reduction ?”
1) NZ youth already have wide access to ‘illegal cannabis’.. BUT probably less access to; now regulated ‘legal highs’
2) the black-market controls the ‘industry’
3) in countries (Holland, Portugal & Uruguay) & USA states that had introduced law reform.. the usage rates had not massively increased, only the legal status had changed. The law enforcement, is causing more harm than the drug use (criminal convictions, loss of job prospects, societal alienation etc.)
4) about 80% of NZ youth, admit already having access to illegal cannabis.. the profits are going directly to the black-market. Surely it would be better to be regulated/TAXED.. to be directed to health care, EDUCATION etc. ?
5) under the current regime, anyone with cash can buy illegal drugs (via the black-market) BUT under a legal/regulated framework (similar to Alcohol, Tobacco & now ‘legal highs’) it would be strictly controlled with an age restriction on sales.
6) many of the ‘societal fears’ associated with law reform are just ‘scare-mongering’ & in countries/USA states that have adopted cannabis law reform, the main area of increase is amongst older people who start using for medicinal reasons (relieve aches/pains) & as alternative to either pharmaceutical drugs or alcohol.
I listened to the tone of the interviewer (in my mind) sounded like she was opposed to law reform (?) & was almost attacking the interviewee for these ‘radical suggestions’.
BUT the interviewee did state one FACT that cannot be denied: Aotearoa/NZ has amongst the highest levels of cannabis & other ‘illegal drug’ use in the WORLD (per capita) & Prohibition is doing NOTHING to limit this !! It is costing our economy massively to maintain it. Would be better redirected to: Education & healthcare/rehab. rather than arrest, prosecute & punish.
Surely its time to look at alternatives (as happened in USA 1933 with alcohol & now Colorado & Washington states with natural cannabis) ?