A Northland GP has called for the proposed cannabis bill to be “thrown out”, and for the drug to be decriminalised rather than legalised.
Dr Kate Baddock, who is also the New Zealand Medical Association chairwoman, says she has been observing the harmful effects of cannabis on her patients for 30 years.
“The worst things that we see are probably related to the psychological harms … the effect that has on personality, the effect that has on anxiety, on mood, on the triggers for psychosis.
“We see it often enough now while cannabis is illegal that we would expect to see a lot more of it, if it were to be made legal.”
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Last week the Sunday Star-Times spoke to people in favour of legalising the cannabis referendum, and this week those opposed had their say.
Baddock said there was no legal barrier to treating patients suffering from cannabis addiction, but if they went before the courts they often missed out on receiving the health treatment they needed.
In October, New Zealanders will vote in the cannabis legalisation and control referendum.
She would like to see cannabis use decriminalised, rather than legalised, to make it easier for doctors to treat patients with dependency on the substance. Decriminalisation is different to legalisation in that it could see people warned for using cannabis but avoid convictions.
“That can be done without legalising the recreational use of cannabis.”
She said it was contradictory to propose the legalisation of cannabis alongside a campaign to reduce smoking in New Zealand.
“We’ve lost the argument with alcohol and cigarettes already and this is an opportunity to not lose this one.”
As a medical professional, it was frustrating to see people confuse the referendum on recreational cannabis with medicinal cannabis, which is already legal.
There was a legitimate pathway for people who needed medicinal cannabis, she said.
Marlborough youth worker Maxine Sweeney, 39 has seen the negative effect cannabis already has on young people and won’t be supporting legalisation.
Cannabis use intensified anxiety and depression in those already dealing with it, she said.
Despite the 20-year-old age limit proposed, Sweeney feared legalisation would further enable the drug to reach young people, and believed teens as young as 14 were already using it.
“It’s not something I think you need. I think if you’re going to use it as a coping mechanism, you won’t be able to cope forever. You’re going to always have that underlying issue that you’re not dealing with.”
Marlborough Youth Trust manager Jo Lane, 49, has been teased for being a “boomer” as she views cannabis as an introductory drug that could become a “slippery slope of unhealthiness”.
She had asked herself whether she was too ignorant, if it was an opportunity to educate, and regulate, but ultimately cannot support it.
“I worry about it. I haven’t had it, and I never want to have it.”
But she had seen the consequences of people who had.
“I worry about young people taking it, especially when their brains are developing.”
She thought legalising cannabis opposed the values they were trying to teach young people about health living, connecting, being active, taking notice. It didn’t align with New Zealand’s goal to be smoke-free by 2025.
She was also concerned about how it would be managed in the workplace, on roads, and how homegrown plants would be policed.
21-year-old law student at Victoria University, Haley Salz, has found herself in the middle of friends who support legalisation and her family who doesn’t, but has decided not to vote yes because she believes regulating cannabis will not be beneficial.
She feared legalising cannabis could influence more people to use the drug for the sake of it and “will create incentives to possess worse drugs on the black market”.