Cannabis referendum: 'Time we legalise something commonly used' - Dame Diane Robertson

10:23 am on 29 September 2020

A new campaign is launching in support of the cannabis referendum, with 60 New Zealanders - young and old - fronting a nationwide poster campaign.

Diane Robertson

Dame Diane Robertson supports legalising cannabis but says is essential to have monitoring systems in place. Photo: Supplied

It includes some familiar faces, like Helen Clark, as well as everyday Kiwis who support legalisation.

Dame Diane Robertson is one of those 60 New Zealanders. She's the executive director of the New Zealand Data Trust, and the former Auckland City Mission chief executive.

"I think it's time we legalise something that has been commonly used but at the moment we're penalising people, particularly people who are low income and Māori about a drug that a lot of people are using ... it's a waste of police time, of resources and it marginalises people."

She told Morning Report that cannabis was a "fantastic product" that could be used in several ways - four people who are suffering from pain.

"There are a lot of people who could be using that rather than using opioids and other drugs that are frequently prescribed.

"There is a much better opportunity by legalising it to get revenue from it, we can use for health and for education and to improve people's lives with it."

She said it was essential to have monitoring systems in place.

Not legalising it created a subculture, she said, and it often it led to people avoiding the health and legal system.

"The bit that really has upset me over the years has been watching young people losing access to employment because they have a criminal record."

There was a lot of ignorance about it, she said, and it was a matter of beliefs getting in the way of facts.

"I've joined this campaign is I have seen so many people who have been marginalised through the use of cannabis over the years at City Mission and they can't access education, they can't access jobs and they can't always access the health service.

"We need to change that and educate New Zealanders of what are the really good reasons to legalise cannabis."

Currently, she said it was difficult to get a hold of medical cannabis and there was a need for two specialists to sign someone on.

"It should be more easily available for people to try other forms of therapy for pain control."

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