A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.
“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.
“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.
“There is no mention about what level of tax will be imposed on marijuana, will it be the same as tobacco and alcohol? Will it really get rid of the illicit market if it’s taxed at 40 or 50 per cent? Will a much higher tax rate be needed if they will test 10 per cent of the product to ensure THC levels are low?
“The Government hasn’t identified any budget for ensuring the public knows about the pros and cons of legalisation in the lead up to the referendum. Given how much this would impact our communities, New Zealanders need to know what they are voting for.
“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.
“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.
“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.
“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”