The GOOD News
Christmas has come early for cannabis advocates in New Zealanders. After Australia, New Zealand is the latest country to pass a bill legalizing cannabis for terminally ill patients. This step is one among many taken by several countries in recent years, although the idea of such a step on any federal level is always cause for extensive discussions.
On 11th December, 2018, after its third reading, the bill to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes was passed, much to the relief of patients. According to the new law, medical marijuana will be available to thousands of patients without the fear of prosecution. The majority of New Zealanders support the decision wholeheartedly, citing tight restrictions of years past where the use of cannabis for medical purposes could only be possible upon approval by the Ministry of Health.
After numerous legal battles for legalization of the drug, the persistence and hard work of citizen plaintiffs is finally paying off. New Zealand patients who have only a short amount of time left to live have been authorized to use cannabis immediately. Other patients, however, will have to wait for a year to gain access to the plant. Until the new set of regulations, licensing rules, and quality standards are defined, cannabis use for medical purposes will remain difficult.
Any form of cannabis legalization is good news for marijuana advocates. But this step, legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, is only a first step. Recreational users are still waiting for a celebratory day. With attitudes toward cannabis evolving daily, and lawful nations around the world shifting slowly to a decriminalized system for recreational purposes, perhaps it won’t be long until New Zealand does the inevitable - legalize cannabis for personal use.
With the realization of just how lucrative a legal marijuana industry will be economically, along with the ease such decriminalization will place on the judicial system, legalization discussions are starting to ramp up. Recreational cannabis use, once taboo, is now experiencing growing, nationwide, social acceptance. Perhaps it’s also on the verge of legal acceptance.
Recreational cannabis – why making it legal is a good decision
After tasting success with the legalization of medical marijuana, officials are planning to pitch for the decriminalization of the crop for recreational purpose. According to reports, decriminalizing recreational cannabis use in New Zealand is likely to generate $450 million annually. In addition, tax revenues of up to $250 million will be collected by the government in that event. Further, millions of dollars will be saved in reducing the burden of criminal marijuana arrests on the policing and judicial system.
The economic benefits of complete legalization seem too many to list. There seems to be no argument to the contrary in this regard. However, opponents’ voices are strong and are backed by the support of decades-old social norms that frowned on the plant as unsafe and destructive. These norms are changing, and the power of revenue-generating economics just might be the backing needed for a final push.
As a part of their coalition agreement, the Green party has a referendum for legalizing cannabis for personal use within the next two years. Furthermore, New Zealanders no longer have to live in the past; sensible laws regarding the personal use of cannabis have been enacted by Canada, several states in the United States of America, and Uruguay.
Should New Zealand legalize cannabis for recreational use?
Effects of decriminalization on the prison population
Decriminalizing cannabis for recreational purposes will change the lives of the Māori people. From 2010 to 2014, Māoris made up approximately 51% of people sentenced to prison, 41% of whom were prosecuted and convicted for cannabis-related offenses. Legalizing cannabis for personal use will likely result in a sharp decline in Māori arrests and prosecutions and ease the strain on the judicial system.
The effect of legalization of weed for recreational purposes
The bitter truth
As medical cannabis advocates in New Zealand celebrate their recent victory, the journey continues for those advocating legal recreational use of the crop. This first step is motivation enough for such New Zealanders, and perhaps it’s only a matter time.
However, although the Green’s referendum proposes a two-year window, lawmakers have not given a fixed timeline for the entire process that would advocate the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. The hope, now, is that the current medical cannabis laws will likely help in establishing a liberal law for full legalization. The bitter truth remains, though, that the opposition party continues to stands firm against public use of cannabis, painting a bleak picture of a long road to legalization - one filled with several roadblocks.
New Zealanders can celebrate today on behalf of the terminally ill. The new bill authorizing the use of cannabis for patients on their deathbeds can only be described as humane and, perhaps, a common sense approach that was long overdue. The benefits of cannabis, at least for medical purposes, have been suggested by medical professionals and scientific studies and research for a long time. Passing the bill now, makes New Zealand somewhat of a latecomer; but better late than never. Perhaps with the right discussions and debates, the right strategies and steps, New Zealand has a chance to arrive early with the legalization of cannabis for personal use.