The Salvation Army is calling for drug reform but does not support the legalisation of cannabis as proposed in the referendum.
‘It is extremely unfortunate that the referendum process has been designed in a way that provides little option between the inadequate law that currently exists around cannabis and the legalisation of it,’ says Salvation Army spokesperson, Lt-Colonel Lynette Hutson.
The Salvation Army is in support of a form of decriminalisation of cannabis, particularly a shift away from society’s response of punishment to a more compassionate health response when cannabis possession is deemed to be for personal use. The Army does, however, advocate for strict legal prohibition to be enforced for those producing and supplying cannabis.
The Salvation Army believes that New Zealanders do not have enough information to make an informed decision for legalisation at this point. It would be unwise to introduce legislation legalising cannabis use before we understand the long-term consequences of this decision. The Salvation Army has seen the consequences of liberalising gambling and liquor legislation and the insurmountable difficulty in dialling back the legislation once negative consequences emerge.
Cannabis is not the benign substance that many people would have us believe. Cannabis can have significantly harmful effects related to addiction, mental illness and motivation and we see this in our addiction treatment services.
Should the ‘yes’ vote prevail, we would strongly advocate for the following changes:
- a clear emphasis on funding health promotion and education with the aim of reducing cannabis use
- significant funding provided for treatment of cannabis addiction so that Police can refer users to the appropriate level of treatment
- measures to tightly restrict the market.
Should the ‘no’ vote prevail, we strongly advocate for there to be a draft bill to reform cannabis law so that:
- criminal sanctions are removed for casual use of cannabis
- a clear emphasis on funding health promotion and education with the aim of reducing the use of cannabis
- significant funding is provided for treatment of cannabis addiction so that users can be referred to the appropriate level of drug treatment.
The Salvation Army does not support the legalisation of cannabis, instead preferring decriminalisation.