The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill: Religious leaders comment


We support the recent new provision in law (2019) for cannabis-based medicine to be available on prescription.

We also support the general move towards decriminalising cannabis users, and instead concentrating on a non-punitive health-based approach of helping those being harmed by cannabis use and addiction.

We note that police are generally no longer prosecuting recreational cannabis use (and we want them to apply that discretion without any bias).

However, we do not support the legalisation of recreational cannabis use, as proposed in the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. We believe legalisation would help normalise cannabis use and increase its use (as has happened overseas).

Cannabis use remains addictive and dangerous for some people, especially those under 25, and can induce psychosis, depression, loss of cognitive function, lung (and other) diseases, suicidal tendencies, and foetal harm.

Legalisation, and the rise of a cannabis industry with a network of retail shops in many communities, would undermine societal messages about reducing drug use (and also undermine the campaigns against tobacco smoking, and about driving under the influence of drugs).

The evidence from overseas is that legalisation would not end the black market in cannabis. In Canada, over 70% of cannabis is still purchased on the black market). Illegal dealers including gangs would continue to sell cannabis (at lower prices, with unsafe levels of THC, and also to those under the age of 20).

We are concerned that legalising and normalising cannabis use will increase domestic violence, cannabis-related road deaths, work place accidents, and educational failure. We are also worried that society’s socio-economically disadvantaged groups are likely to suffer most from the increased availability and use of cannabis.

We suggest that voting ‘No to the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill carries significantly fewer risks of long-term damage to New Zealand society than a ‘Yes’ vote.

We also suggest that a ‘No’ vote still leaves space for New Zealand to further decriminalise cannabis law in relation to users, while retaining penalties only in relation to producers and dealers. At the same time it could strengthen a health-based approach towards those affected by drugs, while continuing to warn society about the risks of all drug use.


  • Bishop Jay Behan, Church of Confessing Anglicans in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Pastor Steve Burgess, Regional Overseer, Senior Leader, C3 Churches
  • Commissioner Mark Campbell, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army
  • Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, Roman Catholic
  • Pastor Iliafi Esera, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God in New Zealand
  • Rev Dr Jaron Graham, National Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene
  • Rev Tale Hakeagaiki, Chairman, Congregational Union of New Zealand
  • Rev Charles Hewlett, National Leader, Baptist Churches of New Zealand
  • Rev Brett Jones, National Superintendent (Acting), Wesleyan Methodist Church of NZ
  • The Right Rev Fakaofo Kaio, Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Rev Dr Stuart Lange, National Director, New Zealand Christian Network
  • Pastor Brent Liebezeit, President, Christian Churches New Zealand
  • Rev Andrew Marshall, National Director Alliance Churches of New Zealand
  • Pastor David MacGregor, National Director, Vineyard Churches Aotearoa NZ
  • Pastor Sam Monk, The National Leader of Acts Churches NZ & Equippers Church
  • Pastor Peter Mortlock, Senior Pastor, City Impact Churches of NZ
  • Assistant Bishop Jim Pietsch, Lutheran Church of New Zealand
  • Pastor Boyd Ratnaraja, National Leader, Elim Church of New Zealand
  • Pastor Eddie Tupa’i, President, New Zealand Pacific Union Conference of the SDA Church
  • Rev Setaita Taumoepeau K. Veikune, President, Methodist Church of New Zealand
  • Pastor Adam White, Leader, New Life Churches
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