Patrick Gower: On Weed aims to educate voters in place of 'disgraceful' lack of Govt information

A year out from New Zealand's cannabis referendum, a new documentary promises to raise the standard of debate over legalising our most popular drug. 

Patrick Gower: On Weed premieres tonight on Three, and the man himself spoke to The AM Show about why he made the two-part TV special which he calls a "personal, professional high". 

"I did it for a simple reason," Gower says. "I've got one goal tonight, and that is to change the debate about cannabis in New Zealand. I want to lift the standard of the debate, I want to change the debate by informing the debate, and that's what this documentary is about."

  • Watch Patrick Gower: On Weed tonight at 8:30pm on Three

The Newshub National Correspondent says the Government has failed to properly educate the public about the issue they'll be voting on in 2020. 

"That's disgraceful, in my opinion, by Jacinda Ardern and the Green Party. They're the ones that put this in the night of the coalition agreement, we've heard nothing since. They've left a vacuum out there to be filled by people who say 'no, let's not do this'. This documentary will take a different approach, it will open people's eyes."

In On Weed, Gower interviews cannabis users, growers and addicts to paint a complete picture of the issue.  

"We talk to everyone. This is not about a simple 'no', this is about opening our minds to something that is out there." 

Between 50 and 80 percent of New Zealanders have used cannabis, yet it remains illegal. Gower says the documentary will reveal the "massive size" of the illegal medicinal market in this country.

"People in pain are still forced to the black market, people are still not able to get it off the shelves or through their doctor and the market for that is gigantic as well."

However, he was coy about giving his own personal opinion on whether or not we should legalise recreational cannabis.

"My position is it's up to New Zealanders when they get to the ballot box. I'm not going to get off the fence, and I'll tell you why: because it's much more nuanced than coming out and saying yes or no. This is a complicated decision and everyone is going to have different limits. 

"I've spent 20 years in this business and I did not get into it to tell people how to vote. I got into it to inform people."

Gower hasn't decided how he'll vote yet, and says a lot of New Zealanders won't know either. But he says if the country votes against legalisation, it will leave a huge problem unsolved. 

"What are we going to do the day after New Zealand votes no? How are we going to approach a drug that is out there? How are we going to deal with people getting arrested for it?"

He says people like The AM Show host Duncan Garner who intend to vote no need to think about alternative solutions because the current law isn't working. 

Gower doesn't support decriminalising all drugs - as Portugal has done to great success - and says doing so would be "ridiculous". But he maintains something has to change about weed because of the rise of dangerous synthetic alternatives which have killed 75 Kiwis so far. 

"Why are we going to leave a market in place that is controlled by gangs that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars? Why are we letting our people resort to this stuff that's killed 75 people, when we could potentially - and I'm not pro or con - open up recreational cannabis, save the money police are spending prosecuting people which is around $200m a year and put it into bloody Pharmac or something like that?

"These are the options and we need to think about it."

The cannabis issue is personal for Gower, whose mother died of cancer. On Weed includes an interview with his father about whether the drug could have helped her in her final, painful days.

"I am convinced that it could have, and I wish I knew then what I know now because I would have gone and got her some. I thought you had to do cannabis through a bong and I'd have to take a bong into her bedroom. I didn't realise it could have been as simple as a dropper that would have helped her sleep at night." 

The experience of filming a documentary about weed opened Gower's eyes to its potential benefits. 

"I knew nothing about cannabis when I started this documentary, I thought it was good for getting stoned. The one thing I've walked away with is respect for the plant. It's an incredible plant, it's got incredible power medically, you can use it for business, you can use it for all sorts of things and it arouses a huge amount of emotion in people as well."