The legal future of recreational cannabis, despite the stigma

Drive 05/01/2018
Photo: Getty.

Recreational cannabis is taking the world by storm, with Canada set become the second country in the world to legalise the consumption and sale of recreational marijuana.

Abe Gray, Opportunities Party candidate and Whakamana Cannabis Museum curator, joins Summer Drive to discuss cannabis growing and use in New Zealand. 

“The cannabis culture is very strong in New Zealand, and of course, Dunedin,” he says.

Labour's arrangement with the Greens promises a referendum at or by the 2020 election to decide whether the personal use of cannabis should be legal.

“I think that allowing the public to have their say is going to give the politicians the confidence to move forward,” say Mr Gray. 

California just became the sixth US state to allow the sale of cannabis products for recreational use, behind Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada.

“Seems like the rest of the world is finally catching up with us,” says Mr Gray.

California's large population now means over one in five Americans live in states where people over 21 can purchase cannabis.

“It’s just now that people are starting to wake up and notice,” he says.  

Suppliers have already set up shop in the US. Getty.

Mr Gray compares the drug to a coffee or cup of tea, with the vast majority of Kiwis comfortable with having a cup of tea in the morning.

“To me, [cannabis] is no different.”

Mr Gray explains that New Zealand’s stigma against cannabis is partly because people only see negative in the media, which focuses on a small proportion of marijuana users.

“The people who aren’t having any problems – we never hear about them,” he says. “And they would never ever want us to hear about them, because they don’t want to be stigmatised.”

According to the 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey, 11 percent of adults aged 15 years and over reported using cannabis in the last 12 months. Mr Gray says that figure is larger based on surveys he’s seen – that between 15 and 20 percent of Kiwis use cannabis.

“The image is changing,” says Mr Gray. 

Listen to the full interview with Abe Gray above.

Summer Drive with Lloyd Burr, 3pm - 6pm and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.