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Pro-Cannabis Campaign Should Stop Implying That Voters Are Racists

The Say Nope To Dope campaign is calling on the Make It Legal campaign to stop insulting the New Zealand public with suggestions that they’re basically racist if they don’t vote yes to legalisation.

“Ironically, the insulting comments come in the same week that Auckland University Maori and Pacific Advisor Dr Hirini Kaa warned that for those living in poverty or dealing with systemic racism, cannabis is a lot more damaging and dangerous, and that legalisation ‘won’t fix racism in the justice system, we shouldn’t pretend it will. Our history of social policy in this country really worries me. It’s going to send a signal cannabis is accessible and okay to use.’” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“For the yes campaign to imply that you’re a racist if you vote no in the upcoming referendum is both false, but also condescending and insulting to the vast majority of New Zealanders who are thinking deeply about this important social issue. The pro-cannabis campaign needs to stop trying to falsely “guilt trip” kiwi voters into voting for legalising cannabis.”

The evidence overseas shows that marijuana legalisation poses a significant threat to low-income and minority communities. Though industry proponents suggest that marijuana legalisation will alleviate injustices against socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, disparities in use and criminal offence rates have persisted in U.S. states that legalised marijuana.

While it is important to evaluate the impact of incarceration within certain communities, it is also important to understand the impact of marijuana legalisation on those same communities. It is inappropriate to suggest that only through marijuana legalisation will social justice be achieved or criminal justice inequity remedied. In fact, no such effect has been demonstrated in the states where marijuana was made “legal.”

“Instead of fixing social justice disparities, legalisation merely changes the nature of the arrest in lower income and minority communities due to the new ‘regulations’. What’s more, the cannabis industry has recognised an important new consumer base – just as they did with pokie machines and alcohol outlets which are concentrated in these same areas,” says Mr Ironside.

In a recent interview hosted by SAM-NZ, Will Jones III - a social justice advocate from Washington DC - said that the idea that legalising cannabis is going to deal with systemic injustices and inequalities is naive at best if not outright appropriating issues of systemic injustice for personal gain and personal profit.

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