Topics: Health, Politics

Māori Party highly unlikely to support legalisation of cannabis

By Ripeka Timutimu

The Māori Party say it's highly unlikely they would support the legalisation of cannabis given the dire effects the drug has had on Māori communities.

Ex-president of the Council Trade Union, Helen Kelly, who uses cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, is calling for a referendum to legalise the drug.  The New Zealand Drug Foundation says politicians need to "wake up" over the issue. 

The NZ Drug Foundation say politicians need to stop beating around the bush over the legalisation of cannabis.

Ross Bell says, "I think on this issue we need to grow up.  I think because it's cannabis it's a dirty word.  Politicians are really scared of that, they think if you do something on cannabis the floodgates are going to open and everyone is going to be smoking cannabis."

Whilst the Māori Party say they will support patients in using the drug for medicinal purposes, they say they're unlikely to support legalisation.  

Ross Bell says Māori are the most disadvantaged under current drug laws, "For 40 years we have treated this as a criminal issue and the people who suffer the most are Māori.  Young Māori men are four times more likely to be arrested and a get a cannabis conviction than non-Māori."

In Porirua, locals were all behind legalising cannabis use for medicinal purposes.  But were split on whether the drug should be legalised for recreational purposes as well.

Bell says the foundation would not support a referendum on this issue, instead suggests drug use be treated as a health problem and not a criminal one.