The best policies are those that achieve environmental, social and economic improvements. Fortunately at this year’s election, New Zealanders have a chance to vote on a policy that could achieve all that and more.
The cannabis law reform that is subject to a referendum provides a chance for Kiwis to vote in favour of a better environment because of hemp’s carbon sequestration, soil stability and plastic-substitution benefits. Cannabis law reform offers employment opportunities in the related pharmaceutical and nutraceutical (food combined with medicine) industries, in commercial cannabis growing for domestic trade and export, as well as in dispensaries, especially for otherwise disenfranchised rural and Maori communities. Social justice outcomes will be improved because the hundreds of thousands of adult New Zealanders who may like to consume cannabis in the safety and privacy of their own homes will no longer fear arrest.
Problem cannabis users will be able to get the help they need without stigma and harms from criminalisation will be reduced. And we might improve what is one of the worst imprisonment rates per capita in the world, which disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika people. It will still be wrong to drive and work while stoned and for young people to consume cannabis, but overseas experience shows that after decriminalisation consumption often declines. That means there are net benefits all round.
The uses of cannabis with or without the active ingredient THC could support an economic recovery post Covid-19. Recent analysis showed that the tax take from legalising cannabis for all uses could reach $1 billion per annum. There are multiple uses and incentives to use every part of the plant. It’s estimated that cannabis industry growth globally is around 34 per cent per annum.
I’ll be voting yes in the referendum so that cannabis can be like tea, coffee and chillies and other stimulants in anyone’s pantry. So that it can sit along Panadol in the medicine cabinet, and, like other herbs and plants, in the veggie patch. I look forward to hemp rope and packaging and building materials. And cannabis as a cash crop for farmers, providing a chance for economic development instead of imprisonment.