Week after week, we've had conservative older pundits spit out self-selected science at us about marijuana use. They say it damages this part of the brain and is a gateway to that kind of drug… all arguments that don't take into account the average consumer who will only smoke marijuana responsibly.
I'm not going to throw statistics at you that subjectively fit my thesis on why you should vote yes in the upcoming marijuana referendum. We've had enough of that of late. Instead, let's take a look at the real lifestyle effects of marijuana use and how it would greatly benefit New Zealand society if legal and regulated. As an alternative to getting wasted on alcohol, it's actually a wise choice.
Culture change away from booze
Whenever anyone who doesn't smoke marijuana talks about it, they constantly refer to the concept of "getting high". There's the assumption that if you're consuming weed, you're getting so fundamentally stoned you can't see six ways from Sunday.
Just as you can have one or two alcoholic drinks without getting legless, you can also consume pot without getting blazed. If we were to treat marijuana like having a glass of wine to relax and be social, we could make a dent in the much-needed culture change concerning our toxic relationship with alcohol.
Lower aggression in society
When many people are drunk, they become aggressive. If Kiwis were to smoke more pot instead of getting completely hammered, our society would have less-common instances of some of the devastating ills that plague New Zealand society. When people – especially men – are drunk, they can become angry violent. That doesn't happen when you smoke marijuana – it makes you more peaceful and chilled out.
Pot as an alternative to booze would mean fewer acts of family or domestic violence, fewer incidences of rape and less worry about consent, hate crimes becoming less common, and people not taking such offence from minor slights from strangers (which often lead in violence and aggression). You know what you don't want to do when you've smoked a jay? Beat your wife. All you want to do it sit on the couch and eat Grain Waves. The same cannot be said when you drink a bottle of bourbon.
No hangovers and less mess
On a personal level, marijuana hangovers aren't a thing. If you were to treat pot like drinking, you could have the same level of enjoyment without the crippling after-effects of being hungover. As someone in their mid-30s who can sometimes still feel a hangover on a Tuesday, this would be a welcome feeling.
Because you don't get horrifically messy when you have smoked marijuana (as I mentioned before, you become more docile), there's far less clean-up than when you do a night on alcohol. No broken glass, no vomit in the street… just an empty packet of chips and maybe some leftover, unexplained sausage rolls.
Fewer drunk driving accidents
Driving under the influence of any substance is obviously illegal and will remain that way. You cannot drive after smoking marijuana. However, if the Kiwi bad apples that are likely to drink-drive smoked marijuana instead, my guess is there will be fewer accidents on our roads.
When you have the buzz of pot going on, rather than wanting to drive faster and more recklessly (as with alcohol) you're more likely to get caught on the motorway by the cops driving 20 km/hr like a grandma, because your cognitive functionality is only running at half speed on weed.
It will defund Kiwi gangs
I only have one major issue with marijuana use in New Zealand. To buy it, you have to go to a tinny house. Whether this is a gang house or not, any money exchanged for the simple marijuana plant will get into the pockets of criminal gang members eventually. You want to know why marijuana is a gateway drug? It's not because you'll get bored with it and want to try something harder. It's a gateway because your illegal dealer might one day say, "I don't have any weed today, try this". And all of a sudden, you're smoking methamphetamine.
Legalising marijuana, thus, defunds those gangs. It takes the production of marijuana above-board (and taxes, regulates, and controls it!) making it a safe and legitimate business – like a pharmacy or a bar – where sale and use can be regulated with supervision and advice from trained professionals. If anything can be done to take money out of the pocket of the violent and destructive gang communities in New Zealand, I can't see how anyone with a conscience can vote against it.