Imagine a pleasant Saturday morning walk on Mount Maunganui Beach, but instead of the usual natural smells, another odour dominates the air: cannabis.

That was the picture drug addiction worker Darryl Wesley has painted for Tauranga City Council of a New Zealand with legalised marijuana.

The Tauranga man, 51, presented to a council meeting this morning about his opposition towards moves to legalise the drug for recreational use.

A survey of councillors by the Bay of Plenty Times after the meeting found that Wesley was preaching to the choir, with all councillors present opposing legalisation.

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In May the Government announced a referendum would be held next year about whether cannabis should be legalised for personal use, with draft legislation included.

Wesley, who has worked in the drug addiction recovery field for 10 years - five of those in Tauranga - said he had not seen any convincing evidence to support legalisation beyond medical marijuana.

He was not encouraged by the examples of legalisation in Canada and parts of the United States.

Two people he knew who visited those areas recently told him they saw stoned people and frequently smelled dope in public places, in spite of rules against public use.

He also feared an increase in drugged driving - already on the rise in New Zealand - and that shops selling the drug would set up largely in low social economic areas of the city such as Merivale.

He was concerned some older voters did not understand how cannabis had changed from the "Cheech and Chong" weed they may have come across in their youth.

"In the 1960s the THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] content was .3 per cent. By the 80s ... it was 3 per cent and in the 2000s it was 5 per cent."

He said researchers had grown plants up to 12 per cent strength and edible cannabis products such as cannabis gummy bears could have much higher concentrations.

"I'm not the fun police, this product has massive potential for harm.

"People need to be aware what it is we are opening the door to."

While THC content had increased, he said the ingredient most associated with the health benefits of cannabis - cannabidiol or CBD - had stayed at about the same level of roughly .4 per cent.

Wesley, who worked for the Salvation Army but said he was commenting as an individual, called for a debate in Tauranga.

Mayor Greg Brownless - who has previously said he does not support legalising cannabis - said he was worried the Government would pass the buck to councils to decide where stores could be located, meaning councils would end up "being the bad guys".

Councillors and cannabis

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless is already on the record as having never used cannabis and opposed to legalising it - but what of the rest of the city's elected officials?

The Bay of Plenty Times surveyed councillors and found little support for legalisation, even from those who had a toke or two - or quite a few - in their youth.


Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout

Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout. Photo / File
Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

I have never had the desire, nor the need, to partake of cannabis. As I often tell my kids, I am high on life.

Do you support legalisation?
I believe that no good can come from cannabis use. Rather it is an insidious drug that causes many social ills, destroys individuals and families, and can lead on to even harder drugs. I am absolutely opposed to any legislation that makes it easier to access this, or any other, recreational drug.

Councillor Larry Baldock

Councillor Larry Baldock. Photo / File
Councillor Larry Baldock. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

I have never tried to hide the fact that as a teenager from age 16 to 21, I was a heavy user of marijuana.

Do you support legalisation?
While having a lot of fun as a teenager I know my personality changed, my motivations altered and after almost five years I decided to change my life completely. The idea that the leaders of our country might now be recommending we open the door to legalising recreational marijuana use is frightening. I will be voting no to the referendum next year.

Councillor Terry Molloy

Councillor Terry Molloy. Photo / File
Councillor Terry Molloy. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

If you call trying it once 'using' it.

Do you support legalisation?
No. Especially with the information about the strength of the stuff now.

Councillor Bill Grainger

Councillor Bill Grainger. Photo / File
Councillor Bill Grainger. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

When I was young and foolish I used it a few times but it didn't do much for me.

Do you support legalisation?
No. The question these days is what are you actually smoking?

Councillor Catherine Stewart

Councillor Catherine Stewart. Photo / File
Councillor Catherine Stewart. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

No.

Do you support legalisation?
No. I am very concerned about legalising it. How ironic that the Government is pouring millions into mental health when I believe this will result in more people dependent on the mental health system. I am worried for my grandchildren.

Councillor Max Mason

Councillor Max Mason. Photo / File
Councillor Max Mason. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

I tried cannabis on my OE in California in my 20s but didn't like it.

Do you support legalisation?
I don't support the legalisation of cannabis, with the possible exception of medical marijuana.

Councillor Rick Curach

Councillor Rick Curach. Photo / File
Councillor Rick Curach. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

Yes, it was a very social thing for a young adult to do in the late 70s and 80s.

Do you support legalisation?
The benefits of decriminalisation are sound but the consequences of increased availability to our youth wouldn't justify any law change, as current enforcement policy seems to be working reasonably well.

Councillor John Robson

Councillor John Robson. Photo / File
Councillor John Robson. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

I have never been a 'user'.

Do you support legalisation?
The current legislation is not working.

Councillor Steve Morris

Councillor Steve Morris. Photo / File
Councillor Steve Morris. Photo / File

Have you used cannabis?

Never.

Do you support legalisation?
No. Cannabis should be illegal.

- Councillor Leanne Brown was absent