A picture of a ‘dope cafe’ along the main street of Thames was painted in the minds of residents turning out to see National MP Paula Bennett in the Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel districts last week.
Bennett, the opposition spokesperson for drug reform, visited Waihi and Thames on September 5 to discuss the upcoming cannabis referendum.
At the 2020 general election, New Zealanders will answer a yes/no question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation which includes details such as allowing those a minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis, regulations and commercial supply controls, and limited home-growing options.
Bennett’s public meeting in Thames attracted residents wanting clarification around whether the referendum was for the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis, and what changes the community could face should it be passed.
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“Decriminalisation is where Police don’t prosecute anyone for personal use.
“It is still illegal to manufacture, grow and distribute, and there are a lot of countries that have gone down this path.
“Portugal is the most famous, but there are more countries that have decriminalised than legalised,” Bennett said.
“Legalisation is what the referendum is on in 2020. That means people can use, grow and sell marijuana like they can with alcohol and tobacco.”
When questioned by a member of the public to what Bennett’s stance was, the minister replied she’d prefer for there to be a longer discussion around decriminalisation.
“If we were going to have a marijuana debate, I wish we were debating decriminalisation and not legalisation.
“It took six years for Portugal to have the conversation, and that’s how long it should take.”
Bennett also discussed the potency and prevalence of cannabis in the community should the referendum be passed.
Only licensed premises would be allowed to sell it and it could only be consumed either on licensed premises or in private homes.