…Decriminalisation in 2020?
In November 2016, while a global audience watched the outcome of the U.S Presidential election, cannabis legalisation advocates awaited the results from a different kind of vote. Five U.S States – Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California – voted to legalize recreational cannabis, a decision that will bring significant cultural and economic shifts.
Paving the road ahead of them, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all legalised, regulated and taxed cannabis for recreational use by adults, applying similar laws that govern alcohol. They have also begun to think more clearly about harm reduction. For example, in Colorado, the ‘Department of Public Health and Environment’ has assessed the knowledge gaps related to recreational cannabis and developed protective policies. This has led to positive outcomes such as educational programs specifically targeting Colorado residents and visitors about safe, legal and responsible use of cannabis (Ghosh, et al., 2016).
Increased tax revenue, from both medicinal and legal cannabis, also earned Colorado around $70 million in tax revenue from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 (Basu, 2015). In contrast, a 2016 NZ report calculated that cannabis-related offences cost the taxpayer over half a billion dollars per annum: $275.6 million in lost tax revenue and $305.9 million in the processing of offences through the criminal justice sector (Ministry of Health, 2016). With a population of a similar size to Colorado (5.35mn vs 4.75mn), should New Zealand also look towards the positive impacts that legal cannabis has to offer, to offset the cost of battling ‘the crime problem’? Continue reading Rethinking Reefer Madness