14 Nov 2016

From Zero - Why Is Weed So Popular In New Zealand?

From FROM ZERO, 10:17 pm on 14 November 2016

Marijuana is easily the most popular illicit drug in New Zealand. Nearly half of all adults say they’ve tried it and a recent poll found that nearly two thirds of us favour decriminalisation or legalisation. And yet our laws remain harsher than many other Western countries. Why is weed so popular here, what are the impacts and can we ever agree on a way forward?


Photo: 123RF

The law around cannabis hasn't changed since the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed in 1974. But something has changed recently: attitudes towards the law. In two polls this year, two thirds of respondents expressed support for some sort of law reform. And support for change on medical cannabis was over 80 per cent.

There can be no doubt that a key influence on the way the conversation has changed is the decision by the late Helen Kelly to go public with her own medical cannabis use – and to campaign for legal access for medical users. This episode of From Zero includes the final interview with Helen Kelly, conducted only a week before her death.

But if we're to consider law reform, it might make sense to look at the way our legal choices have shaped the way cannabis is now. We might have romantic ideas about dope being grown by kindly folk in the open air – but the reality is that the weed most people smoke is grown in faceless buildings on industrial estates. It's an industrial product – one driven indoors by police pursuit of outdoor growers. Is there a better way to regulate it?

This episode also features interviews with Gerard Hindmarsh, one of the hippie idealists who came to Golden Bay and planted pot in the 1970s, Norml NZ president and Hemp Store owner Chris Fowlie, doctors in Wellington and Nelson and a retail dealer and home grower in Auckland. It tells a striking story. And there is a surprise ending for host Russell Brown …

This story was produced by Russell Brown. The Executive Producers were Justin Gregory and Tim Watkin.

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If you have feedback on this series or stories you want to share, you can email us at justin.gregory@radionz.co.nz.

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