Cannabis referendum: National's Paul Goldsmith says let Canada experiment, not NZ

A National MP says New Zealand should wait and see how cannabis legalisation goes in Canada before considering it here. 

After decades of being New Zealand's favourite illicit recreational drug, Kiwis will vote on whether to make it legal in a referendum next year. 

The Government has proposed strict laws on its sale and supply, including a ban on advertising, an age limit of 20, no online purchases and limits on how much a person can buy each day - restrictions which don't apply to alcohol, which has repeatedly been ranked the most-damaging drug by experts when impacts on society and crime are considered in addition to health.

A number of countries and US states have recently decriminalised or legalised recreational use. National MP Paul Goldsmith says we should watch them to see what happens, rather than jump straight in.

"The Canadians are running a big experiment right - let's just lie back, wait five years, see how it works out, then we can make a decision," he told The AM Show on Friday. "There's no need to rush it through."

It's been legal in Uruguay since 2013 and Colorado since 2014. A study earlier this year found teenage use has been dropping in US states where it's legal because drug dealers have been "replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age", while another found "possible increases in the risk for cannabis use disorder among adolescent users". 

Goldsmith said he'd be voting against legalisation nonetheless.

"We're all disappointed with the Bill that came out. I'm not too familiar with the quantities, other than to say there's so many questions left unanswered. How on Earth do you deal with it in the workplace?"

The Drug Foundation notes testing employees for drug use "may infringe" on their rights, particularly if it's not a condition in their employment agreement. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website says employers should have a "robust workplace alcohol and drugs policy that clearly states what is acceptable in the workplace, and what is not, and the consequences of not following the requirements of the policy".

Labour MP Willie Jackson, also opposed to legalisation, said politicians need to "be respectful to New Zealanders who are putting up some pretty good arguments in terms of legalisation", citing Green MP Chloe Swarbrick as an example.

"Put Chloe on - I'm sure she'll out-debate you. She out-debates everybody on this."

The referendum will take place alongside next year's general election.