Should New Zealanders be allowed to smoke and grow cannabis legally for themselves? Journalist Kelly Makiha takes a look at the controversial issue and explains this year's referendum while also finding out which way some locals will vote.
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"Dak heads" and "stoners" or just a harmless way of winding down that's become socially acceptable?
In just over three months, New Zealanders get to choose whether it will become legal to grow and use cannabis for recreational purposes.
Depending on what side of the argument you're on, there's plenty of pros and cons.
For Tauranga's social services leader Tommy Wilson, the answer is pretty simple.
When it comes to drug-taking, Wilson has been there, smoked that and got the T-shirt - or as he likes to put it - "I had a degree in drug-taking". But he's been drug-free for 15 years.
He's not your usual reformed druggie who will wave his pointy finger at you for having a wee toke of a cannabis joint. When it comes to September, he will encourage New Zealanders to say yes to change.
As Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust executive director he sees the end result of all drugs, but for him, cannabis doesn't rate as the most damaging.
"The worst by far is alcohol, then P, then syns [synthetic drugs] and then cannabis."
He said cannabis should be taken out of the hands of organised criminals and those responsible for growing and smoking it shouldn't be jailed.
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"It breaks up families and yet it's a drug that's far less harmful than alcohol, P and synthetics."
He said cannabis was used to incarcerate mainly Māori and cost the country billions in prison, court and police time.
He's of the view that gone are the days when we could wish for a drug-free society.
"People like to take stimulants. That's a fact."
He said he knew of many people who used the more dangerous synthetic drugs because they didn't want to be drug tested at work and fired for using cannabis.
"There are many people who have it at night like they would a glass of wine and a majority of people can smoke it and remain on an even keel.
"They just sit there, listen to reggae music and eat too much kai. But it's better than being wired with chemically-induced drugs that really do affect the way they work."
Tauranga concert promoter Mitch Lowe said in his view, recreational use should be legalised.
"I am not a smoker myself, however, there is nothing I treasure more than freedom of choice, and through my brief research over the years I see nothing but a positive outcome through regulation [proven by forward-thinking states and countries overseas]. So, my question is, who are we to stop people enjoying a natural plant?
But not everyone agrees.
Bay of Plenty-based qualified medicinal cannabis producer Eqalis Pharmaceuticals Ltd says the timing is not right for New Zealand to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.
With the medicinal cannabis industry only in the early stages of development in New Zealand, the firm's managing director, Greg Misson, in a statement, said the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill needs to be delayed for the health and wellbeing of all Kiwis.
"Cannabis is called a weed for a reason, yes it grows easily, however variation between different plants is significant for a novice grower, and the different components such as CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] all have different medical applications.
"We already know CBD is safe for use and is an effective replacement for opioid-based medicines but we simply need more time to explore the potentially enormous improvements this complex plant and all its compounds can have on the health and well-being of our community."
Overseas regions that have legalised recreational use have spent at least five years at the medicinal-cannabis-only phase. In their experience, this time is critical to allow both doctors and patients to assess and understand the benefits of the product in a clinical environment, he says.
"We are not against recreational use on any grounds – our position is more practical and based on health and wellness concerns for all New Zealanders.
"We strongly think THC based medicinal cannabis should be prescribed by doctors as they would any other medicine. We'd also like to follow Australia's lead and see CBD wellness products available over the counter at your local pharmacy.
"A controlled environment best serves those wanting medicinal rather than recreational outcomes of cannabis."
Getting the right legislative framework at the right time for our community is critical says Misson.
"We only get one chance to get this right."
Elizabeth Plant, chief medical officer at Eqalis shared Misson's concerns about the timing.
"There is a significant societal benefit in ensuring that doctors and patients have the opportunity and time to engage properly with medical cannabis to make sure they have access to the right formulas for specific conditions in order to get full benefit for their medical conditions.
"THC and CBD are medical compounds with side effects and drug interactions. They are not safe for everyone. There is wide genetic variation with some people having high risk to experiencing psychotic events or impairment while taking THC. This is not restricted just to young adults. Doctors also need to consider the other medications people are taking and dose accordingly to make sure there is no unintended consequences."
The Drug Detection Agency's chief operating officer Glenn Dobson also has some major concerns about cannabis becoming legal, especially for workers in the Tauranga area who could find themselves impaired to the point where they could be seriously hurt or killed.
He said THC - the psychoactive compound in cannabis - was proven to affect a person's ability to concentrate, their mental awareness, ability to multi-task and their time perception.
He wasn't convinced that wasn't just immediately after smoking the drug when users felt "stoned".
He pointed to the Yesavage study, which showed 10 experienced licensed private pilots were impaired while flying 24 hours after smoking cannabis.
He said despite failing in areas including judging the wings, elevation and landing, the pilots reported not feeling impaired at the time.
He said from the Drug Detection Agency's point of view any legalising of cannabis was going to create safety "headaches" for employers.
"We are about workplace safety and any legislation that legalises the usage is going to have a negative impact on safety and for that reason, we have some concerns."
He said potency was also a factor as cannabis nowadays was a completely different drug to what it was decades ago. He said if the Government's cannabis wasn't as strong and was more expensive than what could be found on the black market, nothing would change in terms of stamping out criminal growers.
"Users will look to get better bang for their buck."
The potential law change
What does the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill do?
It would make it legal to use or grow cannabis for recreational purposes in New Zealand.
The production, supply and use of cannabis would be regulated by a new government-controlled authority.
Only people 20 years and older would be able to buy cannabis and they would be able to buy up to 14g of dry leaves a day. That is also the maximum amount you are allowed to have in your pocket in public. It is enough to make up to 40 joints, and at black market prices would cost around $200.
You would not be able to light up a joint on the street, in a bar, or in your car. Smoking and consumption would be limited to your home or to specialised bars.
The proposals for the cannabis industry are designed to keep it small, tightly regulated and out of sight.
You would only be able to buy cannabis in licensed, physical stores. Online and remote sales would be banned, as would importing cannabis. There would be a total ban on marketing, advertising and promoting cannabis products, even inside cannabis shops.
Potency would be restricted and clearly stated on a product's label - like the alcohol level on a beer bottle. Products would have to be sold in plain packaging and have health warnings - similar to cigarette packs. Edible cannabis products would also be available but would be more strictly controlled.
The finer detail is yet to be worked out, but commercial supply would be capped at existing levels of demand, and reduced over time.
Companies would be limited to one part of the supply chain. For example, growers could not also be retailers. Tax on cannabis sales would be channelled into harm reduction.
Home-growing would also be allowed. You would be able to grow a maximum of two cannabis plants at your house or rental - or up to four if there was more than one 20-year-old living at the property.
There would be fines for growing too much, and potential jail time if you grew more than 10 plants. You could make edibles at home, but not resin, which can be more potent.
The proposed law change is fundamentally different from decriminalisation, in which cannabis possession and use remains illegal but is not punished with criminal charges.
Medical cannabis is already legal in New Zealand.
How does it compare to other countries?
New Zealand would be the fifth country to legalise cannabis, after Uruguay, Georgia, Canada and South Africa. Several US states have also legalised and the state of Australian Capital Territory legalised recreational cannabis in January.
Several countries have decriminalised personal cannabis use, including the Netherlands, where cannabis is illegal but tolerated in "coffee shops".
New Zealand's proposed law is generally stricter than other countries and states, with a higher minimum age and lower maximum daily limit and number of home-grown plants.
How to have your say
The cannabis referendum will be at the same time as the general election, which is on September 19. There will be two voting papers - one for your election vote and one for the referendum.
You will be asked: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?"
There will be two options:
*Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
*No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
Advance voting begins on September 7, and overseas people can vote from September 2.
You need to be enrolled to vote. To be eligible for enrolment, you must be 18 years or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have lived in New Zealand for more than one year continuously at some point.
When would it come into force?
This is not set in stone. If a majority votes yes in the referendum, it will be in the hands of the next government to pass the legislation and will depend on its priorities, and how long the implementation period is. If a majority votes no, nothing changes.
How will they vote in the referendum?
The Bay of Plenty Times asked key figures in the Tauranga community how they intended to vote in September's cannabis referendum.
Bay of Plenty MP and National Party leader Todd Muller:
I will be voting no in the cannabis referendum. While I am in favour of medicinal cannabis for the purposes of helping those with chronic illnesses, I do not believe it is in our community's best interests to legalise a substance that can cause social harm if abused.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges
No. There are far too many uncertainties with the draft Government law and, regardless of that, legalisation of the recreational use of cannabis will lead to many more problems for our communities from more road fatalities to mental health issues for our youth.
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey
Yes. I will vote for the referendum. In Māori, it's referred to as rongoā, which points to its medicinal qualities. If we can put in controls to reduce harm like restricting sale and supply, restricting consumption in public spaces, protecting our young people, limiting the potency and ultimately freeing up police time for more serious crimes, then I believe regulation is better than putting our heads in the sand and pretending cannabis doesn't exist in New Zealand. However, we must be vigilant that drug education and treatment for those that find themselves struggling with issues of mental health and addiction is widely available.
Tauranga-based Labour list MP Angie Warren-Clark
I will be voting yes. I have followed the international research, sat on the Health Select Committee when we legalised medicinal cannabis and cannabis use for those with terminal illnesses. The purpose of this bill is to reduce cannabis-related harm. Prohibition has not worked and we have many people of all ages using an illegal drug that is very much in the hands of organised crime. Legalisation means we can regulate how people produce, supply and or consume cannabis. This does not mean I support the use of cannabis. However, I do support cannabis addiction being treated as a health issue and I want us to ensure we do everything to support people to access help.
Tauranga-based Labour list MP Jan Tinetti
I'm not sure! I am doing some research into this. I am, however, starting from a position without that research of thinking I would vote no – however I am very much evidence-based and that could change with the research I am doing.
Tauranga-based New Zealand First list MP Clayton Mitchell
I'm fully supportive of the use of medicinal cannabis but to legalise recreational cannabis I believe will negatively impact our country on a social level. Cannabis is known to dumb down the mind and make you feel hungry, and the last thing New Zealand needs is a lot of fat stupid people walking around.