Cannabis referendum: Despite what Chloe Swarbrick says the no vote was never about eliminating weed

OPINION: Just to start out I voted yes to legalising cannabis. It was very much a last-minute decision as I hadn't made my mind up as I entered the polling booth.

I ticked yes as I guess subconsciously I thought it was better to legalise something many, many Kiwis use. 

But I still remain unconvinced by the legalise cannabis arguments, led mainly by Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who gave an impassioned interview on the Newshub Nation on Saturday morning. 


One of the key arguments of the legalise campaign and one Swarbrick reiterated on the programme was it will be easier to regulate cannabis if it is legal. 

Much like we regulate alcohol. 

Except we don't regulate alcohol very well. You are not supposed to drink and drive but people do.

You are not supposed to be able to buy alcohol if you are under 18, but my daughter and her friends regularly used to buy booze in their school uniforms, aged 15, from our local bottle shop. 

They would buy pre-mixed alcohol that was aimed at young drinkers. 

You are not supposed to serve someone in a bar who is drunk, but who has ever been refused a drink for being drunk? I haven't. 

You can buy enough alcohol to kill yourself from any liquor store. There is no warning to an unsuspecting and naive teenager that if they drink the whole bottle of vodka they have just bought they will likely die.

Our health service deals with a range of alcohol-induced injuries, from drunk stupidity to overdosing to drink driving. 

I am not convinced we can regulate cannabis properly when we clearly can't regulate alcohol, despite thinking we can. 

I don't smoke dope, I don't like it, it renders me into a comatose state that I don't really enjoy. I do know a lot of people who do and I didn't buy the supply argument that Swarbrick again alluded to on the Nation. 

Not everyone who buys dope gets it from a dodgy dealer in a tinny house who will try and get them onto something harder. That happens, I have no doubt, but the people I know who smoke it get it from someone who is as white, middle-class as they are. 

Should they be able to smoke dope free from worrying they might get prosecuted if caught? Probably, but not because they are concerned they are going to move onto something harder, it just ain't going to happen. 

Swarbrick said on Newshub Nation that cannabis was still here. The no vote hadn't got rid of cannabis. 

"I'm sorry guys, cannabis still exists," she said, directly addressing the camera. 

"Well done. It still exists."

It was never about eliminating cannabis though. No one who voted no thought it would go away. They were just not sure legalising something that was illegal was the answer.

They say the voter is never wrong and maybe Swarbrick should have a little more respect for the no vote. 

I have lost friends to cannabis, one friend of mine has smoked it since he was 14 and is permanently stoned now into his 50s.

He has never held down a job, or relationship and used to often ask to borrow money. Watching him spend his life in a fog of dope has been sad.

What support will there be in New Zealand if we legalise dope for other people who become addicted? 

Personally, I don't think we should have had a referendum for legalising cannabis. Making tough calls is what we pay politicians to do.

I think referendums are a cop out. Stand on a mandate, tell people if you get elected you will legalise cannabis and then if you are, do it.

There were too many emotive arguments and too much misinformation for people to vote. My elderly neighbour told me she wasn't voting to legalise weed because she didn't want to walk past people smoking it in the street when she took her dog out. I told her that would still be illegal.  

As Swarbrick said the referendum has opened up a conversation on drugs and that is a good thing. And I hope the debate on legalising cannabis doesn't go away. The arguments for legalising cannabis could surely apply to a range of other drugs.  

If we are going to legalise cannabis, and the arguments are strong, then voters would like to know what is going to be put in place to regulate the market.

What is going to stop underage kids buying weed as easily as they do alcohol? 

What support is going to be there for people who become addicted to it?

Maybe if those questions are answered it might get over the line next time. 

Mark Longley is Newshub digital's managing editor.