Should New Zealanders be allowed to smoke and grow cannabis legally for themselves? Journalist Kelly Makiha takes a look at the controversial issue and explains this year's referendum while also finding out which way some locals will vote.
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"Dak heads" and "stoners" or just a harmless way of winding down that's become socially acceptable?
In just over three months New Zealanders get to choose whether it will become legal to grow and use cannabis for recreational purposes.
Depending on which side of the argument you're on, there are plenty of pros and cons.
The Drug Detection Agency's chief operating officer Glenn Dobson has some major concerns about cannabis becoming legal, especially for workers in the Rotorua area who could find themselves impaired to the point where they could be seriously hurt or killed.
He said THC - the psychoactive compound in cannabis - was proven to affect a person's ability to concentrate, their mental awareness, ability to multi-task and their time perception.
He wasn't convinced that wasn't just immediately after smoking the drug when users felt "stoned".
He pointed to the Yesavage study, which showed 10 experienced licensed private pilots were impaired while flying 24 hours after smoking cannabis.
He said despite failing in areas including judging the wings, elevation and landing, the pilots reported not feeling impaired at the time.
He said from the Drug Detection Agency's point of view any legalising of cannabis was going to create safety "headaches" for employers."
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"We are about workplace safety and any legislation that legalises the usage is going to have a negative impact on safety and for that reason, we have some concerns."
He said potency was also a factor as cannabis nowadays was a completely different drug to what it was decades ago. He said if the Government's cannabis wasn't as strong and was more expensive than what could be found on the black market, nothing would change in terms of stamping out criminal growers.
"Users will look to get better bang for their buck."
But not everyone feels that way, including city leaders Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey, who both say New Zealand is ready for change.
Chadwick said regulated changes would take away the "thriving" black market.
Coffey said regulation was better than pretending cannabis didn't exist in New Zealand.
Rotorua defence lawyer Tim Braithwaite will also be voting for change.
"Although there are some health risks with cannabis use, it is difficult to maintain an argument that cannabis causes anywhere near the issues that alcohol does.
"Cannabis use has to realistically be a health issue rather than a legal one. Prosecutions for cannabis use serve no value and convictions for cannabis use can significantly affect a person's future."
Rotorua barber Ants Haines said New Zealanders had smoked cannabis for decades.
"It's much better than drinking alcohol, doing meth and smoking synnies and it would be a good way to boost the economy."
Haines said apart from drug dealers, he didn't know of anyone who committed crime after enjoying a smoke of cannabis.
The potential law change
What does the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill do?
It 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.
Only people 20 years and older would be able to buy cannabis and they would be able to buy up to 14 grams of dry leaves 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.
You would not be able to light up a joint on the street, in a bar, or in your car. Smoking and consumption would be limited to your home or to specialised bars.
The proposals for the cannabis industry are designed to keep it small, tightly regulated and out of sight.
You would only be able to buy cannabis in licensed, physical stores. Online and remote sales would be banned, as would importing cannabis. There would be a total ban on marketing, advertising and promoting cannabis products, even inside cannabis shops.
Potency would be restricted and clearly stated on a product's label - like the alcohol level on a beer bottle. Products would have to be sold in plain packaging and have health warnings - similar to cigarette packs. Edible cannabis products would also be available but would be more strictly controlled.
The finer detail is yet to be worked out, but commercial supply would be capped at existing levels of demand, and reduced over time.
Companies would be limited to one part of the supply chain. For example, growers could not also be retailers. Tax on cannabis sales would be channelled into harm reduction.
Home-growing would also be allowed. You would be able to grow a maximum of two cannabis plants at your house or rental - or up to four if there was more than one 20-year-old living at the property.
There would be fines for growing too much, and potential jail time if you grew more than 10 plants. You could make edibles at home, but not resin, which can be more potent.
The proposed law change is fundamentally different from decriminalisation, in which cannabis possession and use remains illegal but is not punished with criminal charges.
Medical cannabis is already legal in New Zealand.
How does it compare to other countries?
New Zealand would be the fifth country to legalise cannabis, after Uruguay, Georgia, Canada and South Africa. Several US states have also legalised and the Australian Capital Territory legalised recreational cannabis in January.
Several countries have decriminalised personal cannabis use, including the Netherlands, where cannabis is illegal but tolerated in "coffee shops".
New Zealand's proposed law is generally stricter than other countries and states, with a higher minimum age and lower maximum daily limit and number of home-grown plants.
How to have your say
The cannabis referendum will be at the same time as the general election, which is on September 19. There will be two voting papers - one for your election vote and one for the referendum.
You will be asked: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?"
There will be two options:
*Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
*No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.
Advance voting begins on September 7, and overseas people can vote from September 2.
You need to be enrolled to vote. To be eligible for enrolment, you must be aged 18 or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have lived in New Zealand for more than one year continuously at some point.
When would it come into force?
This is not set in stone. If a majority votes yes in the referendum, it will be in the hands of the next government to pass the legislation and will depend on its priorities, and how long the implementation period is. If a majority votes no, nothing changes.
How will they vote in the referendum?
The Rotorua Daily Post asked key figures in the Rotorua community how they intended to vote in September's cannabis referendum.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick
I chaired the cannabis inquiry in Parliament in 2002. The evidence even then for legalisation was compelling but the environment was not ready. Today is another story.
I support the referendum question on legalisation because controls such as manufacture, sale to minors, taxation would be regulated. This would take away the thriving black market and police could then focus on more harmful substances that are wrecking society such as methamphetamine. I do support strong public health education about the health risks of smoking. We do want to be Smokefree by 2050.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay
I don't support the Government's proposed law to legalise recreational cannabis as it would mean shops in Rotorua could sell both loose leaf and edible cannabis products. This is likely to include cannabis gummy bear lollies, cannabis ice creams and drinks.
Research shows the harm cannabis does to young minds and young people will use it irrespective of age limits in the law.
I'm concerned there is nothing in the legislation to control health and safety in the workplace or for drugged driving.
Rotorua-based list MP and New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau
I support that this bill will be going to a referendum. It is absolutely right that the people of Rotorua and New Zealand will have their say.
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey
Yes. I will vote for the referendum. In Māori, it's referred to as rongoā, which points to its medicinal qualities. If we can put in controls to reduce harm like restricting sale and supply, restricting consumption in public spaces, protecting our young people, limiting the potency and ultimately freeing up police time for more serious crimes, then I believe regulation is better than putting our heads in the sand and pretending cannabis doesn't exist in New Zealand. However, we must be vigilant that drug education and treatment for those that find themselves struggling with issues of mental health and addiction is widely available.
Rotorua publican Reg Hennessy
Whether it will take away from alcohol sales in businesses, who knows but if it does that's the last thing we need right now. Will it make it more difficult for me to run my business? Of course, it will. If someone lights up a joint, we've then got to go and deal with it. The devil is in the detail and once again there's no real clarity. My own personal opinion is it's just another thing we will be burdened with controlling and looking after from a compliance point of view.
Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson
I am squarely on the fence on this issue. While eliminating the illegal supply has great appeal, I have a number of opposing concerns that I will think long and hard about.
Why 20 years of age for access when alcohol is 18? Not that I'd advocate for access at 18, I just wish alcohol was brought into line if the referendum vote supports the bill.
What responsibilities and costs would regulated legalisation impose on local government? Significant I suspect. What are the messages that legalisation would send to people deterred by the current illegal status and what are the social costs of an enlarged cohort of users?"
Rotorua District councillor and Lakes District Health Board member Merepeka
I worry for our youth. I think we have enough social issues to deal with, without promoting the controlled recreational use of cannabis, particularly among our youth. We lowered the drinking age for alcohol in 1999 from 20 to 18 years hoping to see responsible and moderate drinking. Look what that achieved; the drinking culture never changed, just got worse. I am yet to be convinced the Bill has merit; will reduce cannabis-related harm, whether to individuals, families and communities.