The New Zealand Drug Policy Forum Trust, a group of highly respected doctors and professionals, released a report this week (3/29) urging the government to legalize, regulate and tax the sale of cannabis products in that country. The report, a draft of which was issued last year for public comment, says that in addition to massive savings in law enforcement expenditures, tax revenue on the sale of cannabis would bring in $50 million. The group is confident that the report will start the ball rolling toward a more rational discussion of cannabis policy in New Zealand.
DRCNet Advisory Board member Dr. David Hadorn, who heads the group, told The Week Online "Our recent recommendations have picked up some political support already and I expect more will be forthcoming. Realistically, the best chance for reform will come in the year 2000, after the next election. It's unlikely that the existing government will try anything so risky as cannabis law reform in the run-up to that election."
But the political impact of the report is already being felt. On April 1, the New Zealand Parliament's health select committee announced that it will be holding an inquiry into the effects of cannabis. Brian Neeson, committee chair, told New Zealand's newspaper, The Dominion, "Given the current level of public interest in the cannabis issue, the intention of the inquiry is to gain as much information as possible about the effects of cannabis on mental health." The government has indicated that no move will be made to decriminalize before the results of the inquiry are in.
The NZDPFT report states that approximately 50 percent of New Zealanders aged 15-50 have tried cannabis, and that "nothing short of a scorched-earth policy will ever rid New Zealand of cannabis." It recommends that a Tobacco, Alcohol and Cannabis Authority be established to regulate all three substances, issuing licenses for production and overseeing packaging. Regulations would include age and point-of-sale restrictions, but personal-scale production would be allowed.
(The New Zealand Drug Foundation is hosting an online copy of the NZDPFT report as well as last year's report and a discussion forum, at http://www.nzdf.org.nz/dpf.htm.)