July 20, 2020
Softer sanctions ease path for cannabis reform
The biggest risk to young Māori from current cannabis laws is biased policing – and legalisation is a way to address that.
That's one of the conclusions to be drawn from a review article looking at the pros and cons for Māori in September's referendum on whether the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill should pass.
Co-author Reremoana Theodore from Otago University's National Centre for Lifecourse Research says lifecourse or longitudinal studies show rangatahi Māori are more likely to use cannabis or be dependent on it than their non-Māori peers, and are also more likely to be arrested and convicted.
She says the proposed law takes into account the risk of negative effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain by setting an age restriction – but it also makes sure the consequences of breaking the rules aren't as severe.
"They will receive either a small fine or a health intervention, so they might get an education session or they might see a heath professional, they will not be charged with a conviction. If they are rangatahi less than 20 years of age, it will still not be legal for them to use it or to purchase it," Dr Theodore says.
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