Kiwi Cannabis On The Horizon

By Benjie Cooper

IG: @nuglifenews

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On October 26, New Zealand’s newest Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern took office. At the age of 37, the Labour Party leader is not only the 40th person and third female to step into the position but also the youngest person to do so since Edward Stafford became premier in 1856 at the same age.

Arden’s confirmation marks a conservative-to-liberal transition of power in the New Zealand government. Among other issues that are on the immediate agenda such as immigration, trade, housing, taxes, and climate change, cannabis legalization is a campaign issue that the new Prime Minister will be addressing within the first three years.

In return for the Green Party’s assistance in helping Ardern into office, and pushing some of her legislation through, the incoming government will be allowing the citizens of New Zealand a chance to vote on cannabis legalization by 2020.

In a recent press conference, Ardern stated that “I’ve always been very open about the fact that I do not believe that people should be imprisoned for personal use of cannabis. On the flip side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them.”

Ahead of any proposed vote, the new Prime Minister’s views on the matter of legal cannabis are already in-step with at least one domestic drug organization. In July, The New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF) held a Parliamentary Symposium where they called for the establishment of a regulated cannabis market in the country and decriminalization of all drugs in the country—a policy that has resulted in reduced drug use, smaller prison populations, and a reduction in HIV infections and overdoses in Portugal.

In the NZDF model, anyone caught with illegal drugs would be given a “mandatory caution” and health and legal advice. For repeat offenders, the result would be a mandatory intervention by a drug and alcohol service where they would be given multiple options for treatment.

But offering the citizens in New Zealand a chance to vote on cannabis legalization is likely to result in marijuana becoming legal there. A survey conducted by the NZDF showed support for legalization or decriminalization among 65% of respondents. Better yet, 87% indicated support for medicinal marijuana access.

The NZDF reports that, per capita, cannabis use in the country already ranks among the highest in the world. They state that the country is known for its overall tolerance of soft drug use in comparison to other countries like the United States and Australia, and as a result, people may feel more comfortable talking about it. They state that this may have something to do with the elevated ranking.

And while perhaps differing on other subjects, there appears to be a growing consensus among the country’s various political parties on the issue of legal marijuana. The National Party and the New Zealand First Party both hold overwhelming positive support for legalization with 60-68% favoring it. The Green Party has the highest level of support with 92% indicating approval for legal cannabis.

NZDF Executive Director, Ross Bell says, “The current system is broken. Getting a criminal conviction for possessing cannabis ruins peoples’ lives and creates huge downstream costs for society.”

Depending on how quickly the proposed referendum moves forward, New Zealand is likely to join the ever-growing list of cannabis-legalizing countries of the world within the next few years.