4 Sep 2019

Helen Clark Foundation backs cannabis legalisation

11:10 am on 4 September 2019

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark's policy think tank has backed legalising cannabis and expunging minor cannabis convictions.

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Photo: RNZ

The Helen Clark Foundation is an independent public policy think tank based at the Auckland University of Technology.

The Foundation's report, titled 'The case for YES' suggested people vote in favour of the government's upcoming referendum on legalising cannabis, which is set to take place during the general election next year.

It also suggested expunging minor convictions from records, as well as removing past convictions for supply where there were no other factors involved, such as use of a firearm or violence.

The government committed to holding the referendum as part of its confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.

A specific referendum question has not yet been announced, but a bill enabling the referendum is before Parliament.

The report cited studies showing 80 percent of New Zealanders would have used cannabis at least once by the age of 25 - showing prohibition was not effective - with 90 percent of those not becoming dependent and zero reported deaths from toxic overdose.

It noted that it was not, however, a harmless drug but said prohibition meant there was no way to enforce age limits or restrict harms and pushed users towards dangerous synthetic cannabinoids.

It said a structure should also be developed to prevent large-scale and commercial cannabis retailers and producers, and the needs of those most affected by cannabis prohibition should be carefully considered.

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