Researchers respond to 80% in favour of cannabis decriminalisation

By Talisa Kupenga

The results of a poll released by the NZ Drug Foundation shows around 80% of adults favour the decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal use. Some researchers support a reform of the cannabis legislation, while others would like to see clear guidelines in place as to which illnesses would qualify if the law was changed.

This professor supports the decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Professor Max Abbott says, “If you've got eighty percent of people of the view that we should decriminalise in terms of medicinal use, that's pretty massive.”

Professor Abbott wants to see a decrease in frequent marijuana use and says overseas research shows there is no link between decriminalisation and an increase in cannabis use.

“The current law in my view is far more destructive than the substance itself. It's [NZ law] not doing what it intended to do which is namely control or reduce use, quite the contrary. New Zealand has among the highest use in the western world. We also have among the highest rates of conviction as well.”

The Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SPE) research released earlier this year showed a connection between marijuana use and an increase in premature birth rates. Some women in the study said they smoked marijuana to relieve morning sickness, raising questions about which conditions would qualify should the law change.

AUT Professor Lesley McCowan, “I don't know that decriminalisation has an impact on pregnancy outcomes related to marijuana I think the key to success there is really good education of midwives and doctors and also of pregnant women. Whether it's legal or illegal I think is a separate issue.”

The government's National Drug Policy includes a review of some offences and penalties in the Misuse of Drugs Act, which will begin in 2017.