A new report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser makes key findings supporting the Drug Foundation’s view that legalisation is the best public health response to cannabis use in Aotearoa.
The Chief Science Adviser has released a report weighing up the pros and cons of cannabis legalisation and will be a great resource for people still figuring out which way to vote in the referendum, or anyone who wants to understand the science and likely impact of legalisation in our country.
The report was informed by a diverse panel of researchers and clinicians, and addresses many areas of concern raised during the debate over legalisation, including equity outcomes in the criminal justice system and failures of the status quo to both limit the use of cannabis or effectively deal with drug harm.
One finding emphasizes that despite the fact cannabis is currently an illegal substance, most people have tried it and many people occasionally use it, and getting a cannabis conviction doesn’t stop people from continuing to use it.
The report also notes that more is currently spent on enforcement than harm reduction (professional help like treatment programs). Under legalisation, there would be the opportunity to reroute funding into harm reduction programs. The report also concludes that should cannabis be made legal, people would be more likely to seek help because of reduced social stigma around use and because they don’t fear prosecution.
While most people who use cannabis don’t experience harm, there is fear among some opposed to legalisation that it would see an increase in drug harm. However the evidence from overseas suggests (while it’s still relatively early days) that rates of use after legalisation have generally stayed the same as when cannabis was illegal, only increasing slightly within select subgroups. The report also notes that it’s generally accepted that cannabis does much less harm than alcohol and tobacco in society, and the risk of becoming addicted to cannabis is low compared with other major drugs.
You can find all their findings here, as well as a short documentary with commentary from panel members.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
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95% of respondents reported positive effects, in a study that looked at both prescription and black market cannabis use.