There is a lack of information about how legalising cannabis will work for communities if New Zealand votes yes in next year's cannabis referendum.
I understand cannabis brings in money to communities. However, I have seen what cannabis does to families and other community members. I've served on school boards where I've seen what cannabis can do to children.
I acknowledge the West's War on Drugs has been a dismal failure, but make no mistake, cannabis is not a benign drug. What sells now is not the same plant people consumed in the 80s.
I run a farm, so I am concerned about how my team may be impacted — be they hit by a drugged driver on the way to work, or, if they've consumed it themselves, how that will play out in a workplace like a farm. The argument might be made that people are already consuming cannabis, so who cares? Not only a terrible argument for when it comes to creating legislation, but once cannabis is legalised it will be available for wider consumption, so are we likely to see more people driving drugged?
It's New Zealand — we don't have the facilities for the current workflow created by drugs. Think a hospital's Accident and Emergency Department on a Friday night.
The cannabis referendum is an important decision process for New Zealanders, and with it being about a year away there is still no mass public understanding of the process and of what the plans for a roll-out of new legislation would look like.
Before we make any sort of decision, we need more information on how the system would be regulated and policed. Would legalised cannabis be just another revenue gatherer for the government? Do we honestly think it's going to be decriminalised because the government is nice? There is no information about whether big corporates would own the rights to cannabis strains. There is no information about how the increased burden on the mental health system would be managed.
Let's not hide from the fact that our mental health system is woefully funded already, with addiction services and the consequences of recreational drug use not sexy subjects and therefore not viewed as flagships worthy of big public spend-ups.
What about funding for drug education? As a nation we can't handle alcohol — how are we going to deal with cannabis?
The argument that if cannabis was legalised it would take power away from organised crime ... really? Gangs are already heavily involved with meth. Just read a news report on drugs in New Zealand. How will legalising cannabis hurt gangs?
It is disappointing that National's drug reform spokeswoman Paula Bennett declined to debate Green drug reform spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick last week. The public won't understand issues they are expected to vote on if there is no information put out in an easy to access way.