James Farmer QC: Cannabis Legal Reform – Arguments For And Against

James Farmer Q.C. 13 August 2020
Family First Comment: Excellent legal commentary on the possibility of legalising cannabis for recreational use. Rebuts the arguments used by drug advocates:
* cannabis is no more harmful than alcohol and it is legal to consume alcohol and so it should be too for cannabis
* medicinal cannabis is now legal and so cannabis for recreational use should be also
* the legalisation of cannabis use will decrease any harm to users because its production, supply, strength and price will be regulated
* legalisation of cannabis supply and use will eliminate the black market
*it is wrong that people using cannabis should be convicted under the criminal law
He concludes:
A health-focused solution, but via the deterrence and incentivisation (to seek assistance) of the criminal law, is in fact available now in new zealand, a fact that scarcely rates a mention in the current public debate leading up to the referendum.
I have consistently believed that cannabis is a harmful substance and that people who use it for “recreational purposes” would be more sensible to choose a healthy form of recreation that doesn’t put them and those dependent on them, i.e. their children and future children, at risk of harm.
A disappointing feature of the forthcoming cannabis reform referendum (apart from the fact that it’s being held at all) is that it is the consequence of a political deal between the Labour and Green Parties.  Another feature of dubious morality is that it is being promoted as a measure that will generate tax revenues that can be used, as the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill says, “to reduce the harms associated with cannabis use experienced by individual, families, whanau, and communities in New Zealand”.   Assuming the Bill is successful in achieving its objectives of eliminating the (non-tax-paying) black market – as to which, see below – and that legal cannabis becomes more readily available, the happy equilibrium will be attained of greater access to cannabis, more people using it, more people affected by its harmful effects and more public money to address those effects.
With the referendum now only weeks away, it is a useful time to collect together the arguments for legalization and test their soundness.  The arguments, as they appear to be, are:
(1)    Cannabis is no more harmful than alcohol and it is legal to consume alcohol and so it should be too for cannabis.
(2)    Medicinal cannabis is now legal and cannabis for recreational use should be also.
(3)    The legalisation of cannabis will decrease any harm to users because its production, supply, strength and price will be regulated.
(4)    Legalisation of cannabis supply and use will eliminate the black market.
(5)    It is wrong that people who use cannabis should be convicted under the criminal law.
My analysis, by reference to research, written expert and professional opinion, and plain logic suggests that there are flaws with each of these propositions.  My conclusion is that, properly used, the amendment that was made to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 last year that gives Police discretion not to prosecute where a health-centred or therapeutic approach can be achieved is more likely to achieve the proposed Bill’s objective of reducing harm from cannabis use than wholesale legalisation of the use of the drug.
READ MORE: http://www.jamesfarmerqc.co.nz/legal-commentary/cannabis-legal-reform-arguments-for-and-against
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