Binding referendum on Cannabis legalisation in New Zealand

Credit: Newshub / Reid Research

I have no idea how I will vote on this issue. So let me do some research. First, medical:

Conclusions: Recreational cannabis legalisation is associated with neutral effects on healthcare utilisation [my emphasis]. In line with previous evidence, cannabis liberalisation is linked to an increase in motor vehicle accidents, alcohol abuse, overdose injuries and a decrease in chronic pain admissions. Such population-level effects may help guide future decisions regarding cannabis use, prescription and policy. — British Medical Journal

But what about the legal system?

A recent amendment to New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act has directed police only to prosecute those using drugs when there is a “public interest” in doing so. The government has been clear that it wants to take a health and wellbeing-based approach to those who use drugs. The emphasis on police discretion, however, means that prosecutions for cannabis use and possession would still remain possible, and prosecutions for supply would continue as they do now. — Helen Clark, writing for The Guardian

Next, the moral dimension.  Christianity in general favours experience of reality, no matter what this entails.  Of course, God forbids any kind of intoxication and considers it a sin.  That doesn’t mean drug use is completely verboten – after all, Jesus did turn water into wine.  But it is uncontrolled and excessive use that fails the moral boundaries expected by Christianity.

Next, the moral dimension as seen by philosophers

When you’re thinking about the ethics of marijuana use, you have to think about not only the obligation someone has to themselves, but the obligations they have to other people. Overuse can lead to abuse and addiction, which can hurt a person’s relationships, their work and their health. It could also impinge on their ability to realize their goals or develop themselves fully.

Still, if someone’s not prone to addiction or can use it without causing any great impact on their life, it seems like an allowable indulgence. Used in moderation, there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently wrong with it, but what counts as moderation is, in part, the catch. It depends so much on the person and whether they’re prone to be addictive to this sort of thing. One of the problems is that you can’t really know in advance. There’s no way to know for sure if anyone will become addicted to marijuana. — Steve Mintz, Professor Emeritus

The above is but a small cross-section of my reading, but it does represent the final problem before voters expecting to take a stance in the 2020 General Election via the Referendum on this issue.

No doubt there will be strong “yes” and “no” proponents already, and the information from genuine research and data collection in other jurisdictions will not sway any of them to change their position.

It is telling that the same information similarly fails people who are yet to form a final opinion.  The issue seems to present a more-or-less finely balanced position where the negative and positives are fairly well matched.

Keeping in mind none of this discusses the legalisation and use of cannabis-derived medicines, and we need to remain careful not to mix this into the argument.  I believe the data and the moral dimensions of that issue are much less murky.

Former Prime Ministers John Key and Helen Clark are both actively pushing for a Yes vote on this issue, which causes me to feel a level of distrust.  Neither of those two people are known to act without economic incentives or motives that transcend the interests of New Zealand as a sovereign state.

In the end, I believe I will vote No on the basis that the justifications for change and the justifications for keeping things the same are more-or-less finely balanced, and as such, we should favour the status quo.

Change for the sake of change alone has not served anyone well in general.

If you are in the “not sure” camp and balance the argument, you will probably tend towards No also.  If this is the case, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will not pass.