I’m worried that legalisation would be a free-for-all.
It really wouldn’t. The proposed regulations are much stricter than those for either alcohol or tobacco: no advertising, marketing or shopfronts; use allowed only at home or on licensed premises, a strict R20 age limit. There would also be a cap on the quantity of cannabis allowed to be produced and strict limits on licensing and market share (see below). These are tighter controls than any other place that has legalised. Frankly, it’s not legalisation and control that would be a free-for-all: it’s prohibition.
The simple fact is, cannabis is already here and has been for decades. According to the directors of the Dunedin and Christchurch Longitudinal Studies, 80% of us will use it in our lives and the law isn’t a deterrent, but a source of harm in itself.
While there has been a great deal of chatter about the impact of legalisation on safety-sensitive workplaces, the evidence from other countries is that it won't be a major problem.
The board of Auckland Transport commissioned a thorough review of the implications of a “yes” vote – drawing on this report from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – which produced a discussion document that said while some new practices would need to be developed, impairment would be easier to manage than in Canada, which allows consumption in public spaces, something our bill doesn’t.
Health and Safety New Zealand has come to a similar conclusion, observing that: “Research from Canada also shows that those organisations that had a strong and supportive work culture prior to legalisation were more likely to have success in implementing their impairment policy,” and said that the referendum itself is a “timely reminder” for employers to take a freshly look at their policies on all kinds of impairment: “Put simply – manage the risk, not the substance.”
One technical solution is likely to be a continued shift to saliva testing, which is much better at detecting recent use – and hence actual impairment.