A brilliant plan, but National won’t do it

Collecting an extra $150 million a year in tax revenue at a time when the health, education and housing sectors are all screaming out for money – sounds like a no-brainer, right?

The catch? Legalising cannabis.

This week Nelson lawyer Sue Grey revealed through an Official Information Act request some informal notes from Treasury, which calculated that legalisation would not only generate money,  but also save $400m a year on enforcement of drug prohibition.

Treasury noted two options for dealing with drug reform. First, decriminalisation, which would satisfy international treaties by keeping drug use illegal but with criminal penalties swapped for civil penalties, such as rehabilitation treatment for people who need it.

The full-throttle option is legalisation, which means the Government could generate revenue from the sale and production of some drugs while reducing enforcement costs further.

Treasury says, particularly for lower-harm drugs already widely available, “this wouldn’t have any big negative impacts”.

It notes a number of countries are already moving in this direction. Denmark, Germany, Portugal and parts of Australia and the United States have all decriminalised the possession of cannabis to varying degrees.

“Their experiences have been positive and don’t seem to have increased drug use.”

Treasury also noted drug reform isn’t a “particularly radical idea these days”.

“It’s supported by The Economist and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, as well as reports by our health select committee and the Law Commission.”

So now that information dating back to 2013 has gone public and people are talking about it, what is Treasury’s position?

A spokesman says money saving/generating from cannabis hasn’t been part of any formal work programme.

There’s been no formal analysis and the document was simply “high-level estimates from a variety of sources” but did not undergo the process of quality assurance as other policy would.

In short, “it was a conversation starter” – apparently a common practice at Treasury to test ideas that are floating around.

The brilliant plan isn’t to legalise marijuana.

The plan is to run the question as a referendum parallel to the general election.

Instead of silly flag referendum why not one on legalisation and one on euthanasia, conducted at the election?

Cost way less that way, and it will distract the opposition into fighting on the referenda and not on policy.

National should do that.   Create a three front vote.   Most of the media and half the left blogs will campaign on one or other or both and ignore the election vote.


– Stuff

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