2017 Policy #8 – Cannabis Reform

TOP’s approach to cannabis law reform is about reducing the total harm caused by cannabis.  

Prohibition has been about as effective as our blasphemy laws; with two out of five Kiwis having consumed cannabis in their lifetime. Goddamn it that’s a lot! One in nine have used it in the past year and for 15-24 year olds it is one in four. Do we really want to risk one in four of our promising youngest citizens ending up in jail?

The current approach to cannabis – dealing with people through the police and courts – causes more harm than smoking cannabis does. Prohibition forces people to interact with criminals, putting ordinary New Zealanders at risk and handing money to gangs. We repeat, prohibition is a failure.

Currently, the law doesn’t treat all drugs consistently. Some drugs like alcohol cause more harm than cannabis does, yet they are legal and lightly regulated. 

Cannabis is a health issue and should be dealt with as such. Heavy users should receive help for their addiction and mental health issues. The medical evidence shows that smoking before the brain is fully matured (around the age of 25) should also be discouraged as it raises risks to brain development.

Recent experience from Colorado (where cannabis is fully legalised) shows that crime and driving offences have dropped and underage use is stable or falling. Meanwhile the change has generated money that can be spent on public services.

The downside to the Colorado experience is that they opted for a full commercial model which has led to a small increase in total usage (as competition has caused the price to almost halve). TOP’s proposal will include stricter regulation to overcome this problem and improve on the American experience. This is consistent with our prerogative to reduce overall harm.

Making cannabis legal is projected to free up $180m in police resources, which can be reinvested to reduce crime, and as well generate at least $150m in revenue. That buys a lot of drug education and rehabilitation.

The Opportunities Party will:

  • License suppliers and manufacturers to encourage small scale regional supply, and regulate the potency of supply.
  • Use a tax (based on THC potency) and minimum price to ensure the price doesn’t fall as it did in Colorado.
  • Allow retail sales only through Cannabis Licensing Trusts (local charities) or a Government online store. It will not be sold in the same outlets as alcohol.
  • Ensure the placement of retail outlets (if any) will be subject to local authority regulation.
  • Use revenue generated by the tax and profits of the Trusts (estimated at $150m) for education, after school projects for youth, treatment of addiction for all drugs and regulation to control demand.
  • Allow home growing of up to 2 plants.
  • Set the legal age of purchase & use at 20 and ensure education campaigns discourage use until 25.