When voters go to the polls at next year’s General Election, they won’t just be asked who they think will be their best champion on the ground in their patch.
They will also be asked whether or not the recreational use of cannabis should be legalised.
I favour the use of medicinal cannabis where appropriate but based on the current available evidence, I oppose legalising the recreational use of cannabis.
This is also what I hear regularly when I talk to locals every week at their homes.
The various arguments in favour of legalisation include that it will reduce the power and wealth of criminal gangs and that legal cannabis products sold to the public will be regulated and therefore less powerful and harmful.
However, if cannabis is legalised, gangs that deal in it will simply move on to something else, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, so their power and wealth will not be impacted.
If legal and regulated cannabis products aren’t delivering the high that consumers want, users will go to black-market dealers to obtain products that will.
The arguments against the legalisation of recreational cannabis use are compelling.
Legalising cannabis will make it more available to more people and it will also send the dangerous message that it’s just another product to be consumed.
A landmark New Zealand health and development study quoted in the NZ Medical Journal earlier this year found cannabis use associated with major depression, educational delay, welfare dependency, as well as increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, tobacco use, psychotic symptoms and other illicit drug use.
I am currently running an electorate survey in Botany. While it is early days, people saying they oppose the legalisation of recreational use of cannabis are leading by a ratio of 15 to 1.
Legalising the recreational use of cannabis will not help to address New Zealand’s mental health crisis or prevent vulnerable young people from making the mistake of becoming a regular user of such drugs.
Governments rightly have the power to prohibit the public sale and use of products that would cause harm to society.
This is one such instance where a product that is already illegal should stay illegal.