How are you voting on the referendum about the recreational use of cannabis?
Many people are hesitant to publicly make their views known. Muddying the waters is medicinal cannabis having been dealt with separately (and people thinking this is part of the referendum) and Gen Xers and baby boomers not realising that modern growing methods are producing cannabis that is much more toxic than when they were younger.
The Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender asked a few community leaders to share their thoughts about whether the recreational use of cannabis should be made legal.
Taupō mayor David Trewavas is sitting firmly on the fence and says his role is to encourage a good community discussion about the upcoming referendum.
"I have not traversed the subject with my young family yet. I have invited [Green Party list MP] Chlöe Swarbrick to Taupō to discuss the issue with various groups."
David says he has an open mind about the issue and is open to hearing both sides of the argument.
"To introduce another temptation to the community is a negative. Yet the immediate effects on a person's behaviour are not as bad as alcohol."
He says legalisation will bring quite a few regulatory issues.
Finn's Bistro and Beer Garden owner Vaughan Nairn says people are going to smoke dope regardless of the law. He is not worried about new regulations if recreational use of cannabis were to become legal. He says he would expect plenty of advice to be available for employers and bar owners.
He said customers under the influence or intoxicated as a result of drug use are currently provided for.
"The current licensing rules provide for those who are intoxicated and we would apply those rules."
He says an increase in recreational cannabis use may affect alcohol sales.
"But I guess we would sell more food."
The Drug Detection Agency's chief operating officer and former police senior sergeant Glenn Dobson has some major concerns about cannabis becoming legal, especially for workers in the Taupō district who could find themselves impaired to the point where they could be seriously hurt or killed.
Glenn said the Drug Detection Agency has worked closely with the forestry industry and there has been a huge safety improvement on the back of increased drug testing.
"Increased use of drugs for a person in the forest with a chainsaw creates a huge safety risk."
He said from the Drug Detection Agency's point of view any legalising of cannabis was going to create safety headaches for employers.
Urine tests not being time sensitive is an issue. Expect to test positive if you smoked dope up to two weeks ago. This has not yet been addressed by the New Zealand Parliament, however Glenn said recent case law coming out of Australia has taken the onus away from passing or failing a drug test and redefining the question to whether the employee is an undue risk to the workplace.
"Employers concerned about future prosecution can have a policy in place to manage the situation where an employee fails a drug test. Other things they can do is have pre-employment drug testing and random drug testing.
"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 is a completely different drug to decades ago 'at Woodstock'.
Taupō solicitor and defence lawyer Ian Farquhar says his personal view is cannabis should be decriminalised because it is already so widespread and accepted in the community.
"As long as cannabis is not abused then there is no real fallout for the community. In big doses then there are health issues. As a community we need to manage it," said Ian.
He said decriminalising cannabis goes a long way to dealing more openly with the negative issues around drug use.
"There are still questions around the implementation and knowing where to draw the line. Will this open the floodgates to more drug use in our community? Overseas this doesn't seem to be the case but there do need to be some limitations," said Ian.
Taupō general practitioner Dr Glen Davies says he wants to look at the wording of the bill, but says he is likely to vote yes. He says the issues at stake are complex and multi layered. His views are a personal opinion and not a medical response or the views of the Taupō Medical Centre.
"For me I think it should be decriminalised to reduce and address the equity issues," said Dr Davies.
If the referendum is passed he says he hopes regulation will allow those with addiction to seek medical help and that there would be further legislation to allow better investigation of the medical applications of non-psychoactive cannabis for managing pain.
The Potential Law Change
by Kelly Makiha
The Cannabis Legislation 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.
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 specialist bars. Online and remote sales would be banned and there would be a 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.