New Zealand Medical Association And Cannabis 2020 Referendum

Cannabis is a harmful drug that causes a range of health and social harms at the individual and community level.  NZMA does not condone the use of cannabis for recreational purpose and opposes legalisation.  This position has not changed with the government’s announcement yesterday (Tuesday 7 May) of a 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum.

NZMA strongly believes that cannabis use is a significant health and social issue.  Furthermore, cannabis needs to be viewed in terms of social determinants and the social gradient where our most vulnerable people are at greater risk of drug harms.

“In addition to the physical harm caused by cannabis its use creates social and psychological harm, particularly for younger people” says Dr Kate Baddock Chair of the NZMA, "and we are disappointed that the government is not showing leadership on a matter that has far-reaching effects for all New Zealanders.“

“What we would like to see is the government undertaking targeted initiatives to reduce the social inequalities that increase the risk of harm from drug use and meaningful investment into education and treatment programmes.  NZMA would also like to see a public education campaign to demonstrate that ‘soft’ or ‘recreational’ drugs, as any drug, can have serious and harmful effects.

“NZMA believes that it is consistent with a principle of harm reduction for the possession of cannabis for personal use to attract civil penalties such as court orders requiring counselling and education (particularly for young and first-time offenders), or attendance at ‘drug courts’ which divert users from the criminal justice system into treatment.”