Nelson’s great weed debate


With the Government allowing the public to vote on whether cannabis should be made legal, Tracy Neal from RNZ hit the streets to find out what people thought.

Nelson city busker Mario Paraha’s views are clear on whether or not cannabis should be legal. But he’s not sure the Government will be.

“I myself, personally, would probably say ‘yes’ – but from the Government’s point of view they’ll probably keep it on a stranglehold so they have control of the people.”

New Zealanders are set to decide whether or not to give the green light to legalising cannabis use next year.

The Government has published a draft bill setting out the rules for the use, purchase, growth and sale of recreational cannabis with the public to vote on the issue in a referendum at the next election.

Nelson was one of the country’s cannabis-growing hot-spots, and ranked third behind Northland and the North Island’s east coast for the number of plants police seized last year.

Nelsonians spoken to seemed fairly black and white on the subject, except on the amount that might become legal.

The law would allow people to grow up to two plants each – or four per household, and buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis a day – that’s the equivalent of between 21 and 42 joints.

Nelson lawyer Jock Sutherland said that would mean you’re “virtually chain-smoking the stuff,” while central city vape store manager Matt Robinson said there would be a lot of people wandering around high.

Others said it was excessive and questioned why it needed to be such a large amount.

Retired insurance adviser Vern Mardon does not want to see cannabis legalised.

“I’m leaning against because I don’t think cannabis, as a drug, is right for our community.

“I know a lot of people disagree, but I still have very strong beliefs that it’s… we don’t need it.”

Vern was worried about the harm it can cause to mental health.

Jock Sutherland was opposed to cannabis being legal, because of the harm it created in the workplace.

“If they’re working with machinery or driving a car, or turning up to the office, then their brain’s not functioning the way it was designed to function.”

And it was a no from Ruth Urban also. She supported the use of medicinal cannabis, but has lived overseas in communities where it was legal, and said it drove up living costs.

“People move to a place where it’s legal, from areas where it’s not, so rentals go up.

“We’ve got a bad enough housing situation already and I think it will put even more pressure on low-income rentals here – I’ve seen it happen overseas.”

Matt Robinson was not yet sure which way he would vote. He wanted a chance to research the details, and talk about it with his family.

“We’ve got young kids and we’ve also got an 18-year-old boy as well, so it will be interesting to see what his views are.”

Cannabis formed one of two referenda attached to next year’s general election.

National said the proposal did not yet have the level of detail the public deserved, including that it did not go into what it meant for drug-driving, for police training, what the tax rate would be, or the levels of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.