Mike Yardley: Legalising cannabis 'not in the public interest'

Making recreational drug use legal is not in the public interest, Mike Yardley writes.
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Making recreational drug use legal is not in the public interest, Mike Yardley writes.

OPINION: If a referendum was held on legalising cannabis for personal use, would you support it? You'd have to be off your scone.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF) has been crowing about the results of its self-selecting poll, indicating broad public support for decriminalising cannabis for personal use.

The NZDF has steadily become a strident proponent for law reform, to the point that they now sound more like glorified pushers, campaigning for "the removal of criminal penalties for drug use, possession and social supply."

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Prime John Key deserves credit for doubling down and refusing to budge.

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As does the Labour Party, despite momentarily flirting with the notion of a referendum recently.



Unsurprisingly, the Green Party, which has long been over-populated by potheads, is itching for grow-your-own personal supply to be legalised.

According to the United Nations, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of cannabis users in the world, with 9-14 per cent of Kiwis routinely getting wasted, four times the global average.

The NZDF argues it's a complete waste of "hundreds of thousands of police hours" trying to enforce the law, criminalising and imprisoning Kiwis for low-level possession.

Just because tens of thousands of Kiwis choose to smoke dope in defiance of the law, is not a compelling reason to legitimatise their lifestyle. Forty-two per cent of front line police officer hours are consumed on dealing to family violence.

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If you apply the extreme, absurd and self-serving logic of the legalise lobby, the police should surrender to family violence too, because so many Kiwis are indulging in this sick and twisted national sport.

Ditto for child abuse, tax evasion, drink-driving, shop-lifting, or any other social scourge you care to name.

Two per cent of Kiwis have graduated from the gateway drug of cannabis to become meth-heads. Should we adopt a similarly defeatist attitude to methamphetamine's legal status too?

Clearly, more focus is rightly being placed on not just treating illicit drug use as a criminal issue, but a health issue.

According to Treasury, only 6 per cent of cannabis users are collared by the police. The overwhelming majority of those who are sprung for possession, aren't imprisoned.

The police have increasingly adopted are far pragmatic approach, deploying pre-charge warnings and diversion instead. But recidivist and unrepentant users are convicted. The police don't actively target low-level cannabis users.

Being charged for possession generally only comes about as a consequence of being arrested for higher-level offending, like burglary.

The other great myth peddled by the legalisation lobby is that cannabis use is a victimless crime.

As the National Committee for Addiction Treatment points out, 55 per cent of our prison inmates are cannabis dependent. It fuels crime.

And we're all paying the price for cannabis dependence through its devastating impact on mental health.

Is it really just a coincidence that Northland, our cannabis capital, also has one of the world's highest rates of schizophrenia?

The insidious prevalence of cannabis-induced schizophrenia, psychosis, depression and anxiety is undeniable. As is slothfulness.

Of the 200,000 working-age and able bodied Kiwis drawing a benefit, what proportion would rather have a joint, than a job?

Never before, have we had more taxpayer-funded treatment service providers. But only the individual can summon the will to start transforming their life. They need to be vigorously encouraged to take those steps.

Globally, it's been a long-established ploy by the likes of NORML (the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) to cynically hitch medical marijuana to the same wagon as recreational drug use, to soften up the public to complete capitulation.

Liberalising the law to help terminal patients in pain access products like Sativex​ is one thing. But rolling over on recreational drug use is not in the public interest.

 - Stuff

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