Should cannabis law be reviewed?

There are frequent calls for reviewing our cannabis laws. There’s just been another one.

New cannabis strategy needed, say psychiatrists

Drug addiction psychiatrists say prohibition of cannabis use has failed in New Zealand and it is time to talk about adopting another strategy.

Wellington Community Alcohol and Drug Service psychiatrists say the law around cannabis is illogical.

Psychiatrists say one of the worst aspects of criminalising cannabis use is that it leaves people, particularly young people, with a record that is out of proportion to the offence.

Dr Jeremy McMinn of the Wellington Community Alcohol and Drug Service says most addiction workers would support liberalisation of cannabis law, though not legalisation

The psychiatrists do not believe liberalising cannabis law would particularly add to their workload but would allow them to treat people who are currently too scared or ashamed to seek help.

They say although they see some clients with cannabis-induced psychosis, 80% of their work involves the legal drug, alcohol.

They say our current cannabis law is an impediment to treatment, but also note that cannabis use can cause problems: “they see some clients with cannabis-induced psychosis”.

More on the problems:

A 25 year longitudinal study of 1000 people concluded that “regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs”.[4] The lead author of the study, Professor David Fergusson, stated that “the regular use of cannabis increases the risks that young people will try other illicit drugs. What’s not clear are the underlying processes that lead to this association.”[5]

So we have a problem with cannabis law apparently not dealing adequately with cannabis use, but there problems with cannabis use. There probably won’t be any simple solutions – if there were that’s what would be being done around the world.

But perhaps it’s time to have a comprehensive look at how we police cannabis use and how cannabis use affects individuals and society. And we may be able to work out a better way.

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