In the final week before the referendum on whether to legalise cannabis the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) has switched its position from one of opposition to one of neutrality. A report in The Guardian notes that the move comes after some doctors complained about the association’s opposition to legalising the drug, saying they had not been consulted, and discussion and debate of the association’s position had not been forthcoming.
Doctors said the NZMA was also basing its position on outdated evidence and advice from 2012. More than 1.15m people have already cast an early vote – nearly double the number who had voted by this time ahead of the 2017 election.
The report says that some of New Zealand’s most experienced public health experts threw their support behind the yes campaign. In an editorial in the New Zealand Medical Journal, specialists from the fields of addiction treatment, public health, health promotion and epidemiology have urged New Zealanders to legalise cannabis, days after a poll showed the vote on a knife-edge.
Cannabis is New Zealand’s most commonly used illicit drug. The latest New Zealand Health Survey found that 15%, or 590 000 New Zealand adults used cannabis in the past 12 months. Māori account for 16% of New Zealand’s population and are shown to be disproportionately affected by New Zealand’s drug laws, facing three times as many arrests and prosecutions for possession of cannabis than non-Māori.
Full report in The Guardian