In this summer podcast series, the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB's Go to Health podcast tackles a different health issue each week. Today, it's whether our health system can handle medicinal marijuana, and whether we should stop there. Hosted by Frances Cook.
It doesn't take a genius to realise our current approach to drug use is … flawed.
Synthetic cannabis is a growing problem, with users often left a drooling mess, and rolling the dice that homemade concoctions may actually kill them.
Meth use also doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast, with the expensive habit often sucking addicts into criminal activity in order to keep the drugs coming.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are sitting around debating whether people who are dying of cancer can use medical marijuana as pain relief. The new Government is set to introduce medicinal cannabis legislation for those with terminal illness or chronic pain, as part of their 100 day plan.
But even if there's action on that point, the rest of our drug laws still look topsy turvy.
Emotion and moral judgement are loaded into the debate rather than a cold hard look at what works for the most people.
It's hard not to look at Portugal for answers, after they decriminalised all drugs in 2001. That doesn't mean drugs are legal, it's just not a crime, and if you get caught using you get a medical referral instead of jail time.
What's happened in the 16 years since? A sharp drop in drug-related harm, that's what. A drop in overdoses, HIV infections, drops in drug-related crime.
The only increase was in the numbers of people getting medical help for drug addiction, which shot up 60 percent between 1998 and 2011.
I called Ross Bell, executive director of the Drug Foundation, to find out if that could ever work for us.
We talked about whether the health system can handle medicinal marijuana, ethical and quality control issues, and whether we should make bigger changes to our system for illegal drugs.
For the interview, listen to the podcast.
Don't forget to subscribe to the Go to Health podcast on Apple podcasts or I Heart Radio.