What if cannabis profits went back to the community?

If recreational cannabis is legalised, some people think the profits should go back to the community - a model that's already used with alcohol. 

Massey University has conducted research looking at how alcohol licensing trusts work and whether their use could translate to cannabis if recreational use is legalised in 2020. 

Lead researcher Dr Marta Rychert said the results show strong support for the model. More than half the respondents in a survey, 62 percent, said they would support it, she told The AM Show on Monday. 

"The surprising thing that we've seen is that 62 percent of respondents chose something which we call 'middle ground cannabis law reform' options," she said. 

"It's something in between prohibition and a full commercial profit-driven market - like what we see with alcohol."

In west Auckland, two trusts own and operate liquor retail stores and hospitality venues on behalf of the community. Both the Waitakere Licensing Trust and the Portage Licensing Trust are 100 percent community-owned. 

A similar model applies in Invercargill where the Invercargill Trust owns six liquor outlets in the area, and returns a share of the profits to the community. 

Lead researcher Dr Marta Rychert says there's strong support among Kiwis for "middle ground cannabis law reform".
Lead researcher Dr Marta Rychert says there's strong support among Kiwis for "middle ground cannabis law reform". Photo credit: The AM Show

If recreational cannabis is legalised next year, Dr Rychert said communities could decide in a local vote if they want a trust to be responsible for meeting the demand for the substance in their area. 

"It's possible, I don't know which way the Government will be going, but from the survey we have seen that there is appetite for this middle ground approach," she told The AM Show. 

The trust could operate off-license cannabis dispensaries, with all revenue from the sale of cannabis to be spent to benefit the community. Board members could be elected to serve on the trust to ensure it meets its obligations. 

"We're thinking it should be controlled and we're saying the community should have a say whether they want to open the stores in their community and how many stores they want."

The Green Party was promised a referendum on legalising recreational cannabis at or by the 2020 election as part of their coalition agreement with Labour. The Government confirmed last month that the vote will take place in 2020. 

The Government has also moved to ease up on people caught with personal possession of illegal drugs, and will allocate $16.6 million to boost community addiction treatment services - trading jail time for treatment. 

But there are concerns about legalising recreational cannabis. The AM Show host Duncan Garner said on Monday he doesn't understand why the Government would legalise it while also trying to make New Zealand smoke-free. 

Canada passed legislation to legalise recreational cannabis in June, paving the way for nationwide legalisation in October, becoming the second country to do so after Uruguay. 

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