Aliases* have been used to ensure anonymity
Alice* never used cannabis when she was younger, very conscious that it was against the law.
However, the Northlander was convinced by her friends to try some in a cup of tea as a treatment for her severe nausea about five years ago. The results, she said, were astonishing.
"I had spent months feeling nauseous and had nine different types of anti-nausea treatments in my handbag," Alice said.
"[After taking cannabis], my nausea disappeared for several hours and since then, I've used it on occasion, either in a cup of tea or vaping it in order to get rid of nausea - it's amazing, it's done better than any other thing has."
Alice said she also started using cannabis-infused oil to manage flare ups of her inflammatory bowel disease, a condition which made her bleed from her bowels.
As she was unable to source medicinal cannabis, Alice said using cannabis had greatly improved her health and she hoped this year's cannabis referendum was successful and she would be able to source cannabis legally.
"I know that there are some people that misuse it, but I know there are a lot of people who use it for good and they have to use it on the sly, which is really sad."
Terry* believes differently. Speaking anonymously, the Northlander told the Northern Advocate about how his son had a successful career as a builder in New Zealand and Australia before cannabis entered his life.
"About 25 years ago, he started on cannabis in New Zealand. After moving to Australia 15 years ago, he progressed on to meth, after that his marriage failed, he had two serious motor accidents, falling asleep at the wheel, and is now on a sickness benefit."
Terry attributed his son's downward spiral to the use of cannabis and hoped others would follow his lead and vote no in the referendum.
"This drug is hurting us, vote no if you care about our future generations."
This year's general election on October 17 will feature two referendums where Kiwis will vote yes or no on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act.
For people in New Zealand, they will be able to vote from Saturday, October 3. For Kiwis based overseas, they can vote from Wednesday. People must be enrolled to vote in the election and referendums.
Today, the Northern Advocate discusses the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, how it might impact Northland and what global evidence is available on legalisation.
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill 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.
Read more at www.referendums.govt.nz
Only people 20 or older would be able to buy cannabis, and they would be able to buy up to 14 grams of dry leaf 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.
The coming referendum is not binding, meaning if 50 per cent of people vote yes, the bill's contents would not become law until it was debated and potentially altered in Parliament.
Whangārei woman Sarah Stephens said she would be voting no as she was concerned about people driving high.
"I have young children, I don't want them to be in an accident because somebody was driving while they were under the influence."
She encouraged others to read the bill as it clearly described how legalisation might work.
Horeke's Kamilo Galvin, 62, said he would vote yes but was aware restrictions needed to be enforced across the industry's different factions.
"I think legalise cannabis with restrictions because you've got your growers and you've got your users and then you've got the medical side of it."
Kerrie van Heerden, originally from Auckland but whose partner is from Waipū, said she advocated legalisation thanks in part to its potential benefit to the economy.
"I just like that there's going to be more jobs for people and if it's a yes vote, it's not going to be stigmatised and people will start talking about it and they won't end up in jail."
The economic benefits of legalisation were clear for Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Steve Smith, who said it presented an opportunity for Northland businesses.
"It's a plant which is obviously suited to the north, we can grow it, it's going to be legal, it's going to be needed, so let's just get on with it," he said.
While he suspected not every local grower would become a commercial cannabis business, Smith said there was potential for those with resources.
"If you have grown successfully and you've put a bit of money away, this may be a way for you to legalise that business and step away from making it available for social use."
Nevertheless, Smith was confident any business which entered the cannabis market would have to be beyond reproach.
"The type of organisations given a pathway into this [market] will be extremely well scrutinised, so if there's anything dodgy about your background, I wouldn't imagine you'd be able to come anywhere near this industry."
Say Nope to Dope is a group of organisations that oppose legalisation. National spokesman Aaron Ironside was a daily cannabis user and said it had a negative impact on his health and wellbeing.
"I realised the two big effects were that my own mental health was starting to suffer, I was noticing I was unable to control my anxiety and depression.
"I also noticed my motivation for other things had all but disappeared and I wanted my life to be more than just thinking about when was the next time I could get high."
Around the world, legalisation appears to be a growing movement. In 2012, Colorado become one of the first states in the US to legalise cannabis while in 2018, Canada did the same.
However, Ironside said the effect of legalisation was not yet known in the United States and Canada. He believed it was necessary to wait for more information before legalising cannabis in New Zealand.
"Why would we gamble the future of our young people on a social experiment, why don't we just wait and really see what happens in Canada over not one year, but over 10 years before we go and open up the same risks to our young people."
Massey University's SHORE and Whariki research centre drug research team lead associate professor Chris Wilkins, who studied illegal drug use and drug policy, agreed it was too early to draw conclusions from the United States and Canada.
However, he noted the clearest outcomes from legalisation was beneficial for the economy and criminal justice, benefits which could not be realised in New Zealand for a long time if the referendum didn't pass.
"If this doesn't work out, there is a good chance nothing might happen in cannabis policy for a long time," he said.
"In the meantime, people are still being arrested and we are not earning that cannabis tax, so there are some opportunity costs lost for just waiting."