Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has urged Kiwis to vote in favour of recreational cannabis being legalized at next year’s referendum.
She recently set up a think tank called The Helen Clark Foundation and it has just issued a report called “The Case for YES”. It recommends expunging minor cannabis convictions and ushering in a legal market that can regulate marijuana in a responsible fashion.
“Isn’t this [the current approach] a waste of the justice system’s time and money?” she said. “Haven’t the police got better things to do? Aren’t we better to face the reality that 80% of Kiwis are going to try this at some point in their lives?”
Clark was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand and she led the country from 1999 to 2008. Had she been given a fourth term in office, she claims she would have sought to legalize recreational cannabis use.
Her administration did not advance cannabis policy in any significant way, but the current government has decided to ballot the people on whether adult-use cannabis should be permitted. Kiwis will vote in a general election next year and they will also be able to vote on whether or not recreational cannabis should be legalized on the same ballot.
New Zealand has one of the highest cannabis consumption levels in the world, according to the World Drug Report. It legalized medical cannabis use in 2017 and an industry is starting to take shape.
The Helen Clark Foundation believes New Zealand should follow in the footsteps on Uruguay, Canada and various U.S. states by ushering in a more mature attitude towards cannabis use.
It claims that a “yes” vote in 2020 would advance public health objectives and promote greater social equity. It adds that prohibition does not work, it cannot eradicate consumption, it is a waste of police time and it disproportionately punishes the Māori community.
Clark wants to see New Zealand treat cannabis use as a social and public health issue rather than a criminal one. She insists that decriminalizing it is not enough, and that New Zealand should study developments in Uruguay and North America before ushering in a commercial, regulated industry.
She also wants to see individuals and communities that were most affected by prohibition to benefit from any changes to the law, allowing them a fair chance to become retailers and producers. Clark warned that large, profit-driven cannabis conglomerates should not be able to dominate New Zealand’s cultivation and retail trades.