I'm just back from my daily workout in the local park. The meth heads were somewhat bemused by the fuller-figured old guy doing his calisthenics amidst the blue haze. It's always difficult trying to improve on perfection. They likely wonder what weird drug I am on to perform such unnatural gyrations.
I am in Portland, Oregon, travelling with my teen nephew. It is a lovely mellow city carved out of lush redwood forest with a river flowing through the centre. It has a relaxed vibe regardless of one's intake.
The hostel where we are staying is in the northwest of the city. The small park opposite provides residence to a group of meth addicts. Their twitching befuddled movements belie their drug of choice.
One young girl in a flowing white dress has been flaring for several days since we arrived. She took a liking to my nephew's T shirt that says "Busted". At least she is still literate.
Each day I have exercised there she has flowed past detached from reality in her own animated meth haze. It is a sad unnerving sight. A young life disappearing rapidly.
It's not just meth — the acrid odour of dope is always present. Young folk lie in the park during the day. A hazy detached expression on their faces. Connected to reality but in a spacey surreal way.
Yesterday I sat in a cafe. At the next table was a mother and teen daughter. The mother was very corporate, wearing a cream power suit. She was on her iPhone making various appointments. Occasionally looking up and lecturing the teen on her posture and appearance. Periodically the teen would spark up a joint. Her mother would retreat in disgust to her corporate digital interactions. It was a sad scene.
New Zealand will hold a referendum on our legal approach to cannabis in 2020. I tend to favour decriminalisation, especially for medical use.
But I oppose full legalisation, which allows marketing. It allows businesses to promote greater use as in any profit driven industry. It allows home delivery, drive through retailers, cookies, cakes and other variants to attract more customers.
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The bulk of these customers will be young people. There will always be an element with addictive traits. Like most mood altering substances, including alcohol, dope can be very addictive for some people. Like alcohol, it can destroy lives.
A profit driven legal cannabis industry with the ability to market and develop product variants to generate more customers, would be the worst of all scenarios. We need to proceed with great care. The framing of the referendum is crucial.
• Peter Lyons teaches economics at St Peter's College in Epsom.