High Time?

High Time?

A surprisingly large number of Kiwis regularly use cannabis – a world drug report by the United Nations in 2009 put New Zealanders as the third highest cannabis users in the world. And the same report found that New Zealand has the highest rate of teenage cannabis use in the world.

However cannabis causes less harm and costs the state less in health care than alcohol or tobacco; yet it’s an illegal substance in this country while tobacco and alcohol aren’t.

High Time? investigates the facts, fanatics and fallacies surrounding cannabis in New Zealand and puts the question, isn’t it time we made cannabis legal?

Central to the story is Dakta Green – no not a new colour on a paint chart -Dakta Green used to be known as Ken Morgan and was an electorate chairman for the National Party and campaigner for Saturday Trading and Casinos before becoming an advocate for cannabis law reform. He is leading the charge for cannabis to be legalized and has set up the Daktory as an example of how it might work in the future:

“The purpose of this club is to show my fellow New Zealanders that you have absolutely nothing to fear from people who are part of the cannabis culture.”

The Daktory is a warehouse in West Auckland, operating as a club for cannabis users where they can purchase and smoke the drug. Does its existence indicate the authorities are turning a blind eye to low level consumption:

“we’ve had police come through our door four or five times since we’ve been open and on only one of those occasions did they come rolling across the counter waving warrants”

Warren Young from the Law Commission has been involved in a recent review of our Drugs Laws and supports changes to our cannabis laws:

“I think simply carrying as we’re carrying on at the moment doesn’t really work.”

And there are numerous experts who advocate legalisation like Professor David Nutt, former Drugs Advisor to the British government:

“Penalizing, criminalizing tens of thousands of people for possessing a drug that is less dangerous than a few of cans of lager is not only morally wrong but it makes no financial sense at all.”

Likewise local barrister Tony Greig wants to see a change in our cannabis laws:

“Why are we persisting with a law that does not deter people, why are we persisting with this law that only criminalises people? It is a no brainer.”

And there are people using cannabis who have a legitimate need – for some people it offers pain relief or therapeutic benefits that they can’t get from prescription medicines. However, under current legislation these people are being charged and convicted, like Dawn:

“I've had to deal with all of the fall out from police, the courts lawyers corrections and my life’s just completely changed.”

What are the pro’s, con’s, costs and risks of taking a more liberal approach to cannabis?And ultimately, what is the best option for the health of our nation?

Inside New Zealand On Demand