Science advisor: less sure of what will happen if we legalise cannabis


Legalising cannabis has the potential to counter systemic racism, see more treatment services and lift poor communities that have become embroiled in the black market, the chief science adviser to the Prime Minister says.

But Dr Juliet Gerrard says whether that would come to pass if the country voted to legalise recreational cannabis is unknown.

The report says evidence for overseas outcomes is uncertain, reflecting:

  • The short time since reforms were made
  • Different regulatory approaches
  •  A commercial industry that isn’t yet fully established

Pre-existing or time-lagged trends in health and social impacts also contribute.

The evidence may never become entirely ‘certain’, and interpretation will require value judgements.

The Aotearoa experience will depend on the nations unique environment and specific regulatory approach and implementation.

“We’re pretty sure of the situation at the moment. We’re much less sure of what will happen if we legalise it,” Gerrard told the New Zealand Herald.

She has led an expert panel of academics, researchers and health and social experts – co-chaired by Auckland University Professor Tracey McIntosh – in gathering information to inform the debate in the lead up to September’s vote.

The panel’s work, peer-reviewed internationally and nationally went, live on Wednesday and contains a wealth of information.

A new poll shows 48 per cent of Kiwis would support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill at the referendum this year, compared to 43 per cent who are opposed.

The UMR poll was commissioned by the Helen Clark Foundation and surveyed 1,128 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over. The margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

It showed support had increased by two points since the last UMR poll February, while the opposition had fallen by one point.

Read What might happen if you vote

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