Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan pitches cannabis legalisation as election policy

Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan wants cannabis legalised for over-20s.
CHRIS McKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan wants cannabis legalised for over-20s.

Gareth Morgan, the wildcard of this year's election, wants cannabis legalised if he plays a part in the next government - but he says the policy won't be a deal-breaker.

The Opportunities Party leader on Friday announced he wants to make the Class C drug legal for anyone over 20, under a system regulated by the government.

It's a step further than last month, when Morgan suggested he would look to decriminalise cannabis - which would remove criminal penalties, but stop short of establishing a market for the drug.

Now, he believes legalising the drug is a better idea.

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"There is absolutely no evidence that use of cannabis goes down when you have prohibition ... Prohibition, just like prohibition of alcohol in the old bootleg days, is not working," Morgan says.

Under his plan, growers and sellers would need licences, the drug's potency and quality would be regulated, and the government would set a minimum price, Morgan says.

"Obviously, if you make the price way, way too high, then your underworld market gets to thrive on that as well, so you've got to look at what you've got now, and make sure the price isn't miles above what it is now, nor miles below, otherwise you'll stimulate demand."

He'd like to see retailers run in a similar way to liquor licensing trusts, which give profits back to their local communities.

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Treasury documents show legalisation could raise $150 million in tax per year, and also save millions from the police and justice budgets by slashing prosecutions.

Asked how he'd prevent young people - who are the most at risk from the drug's harmful effects - from using it, Morgan says: "We have to get this thing out of the closet and we have to hit those people with education on the fact that it does damage, if you're too young."

"We haven't done that [in the past] because we don't want to talk about the subject because it's illegal."

The likelihood of the minor party leader getting into Parliament looks slim: in March, the Opportunities Party was polling at 0.8 per cent in a Newshub-Reid Research poll, far short of the five per cent threshold it needs to reach. Morgan has also ruled out running in an electorate.

If he does get into Parliament, and lines himself up as a prospective government support partner, he'll be putting 10 key policies - including cannabis legalisation - on the table, and seeing how many he can get over the line, but says none is a deal-breaker.

"I'm not dying in a ditch on anything."

Rather than targeting any specific party's supporters, he says he's appealing to voters "who make their decisions on a policy and evidence base".

"Anyone who's informed will look at this, and they will know that this is actually the most sensible thing to do. Why the hell didn't we do it 20 years ago?"

 - Stuff

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