Risks of legal cannabis in New Zealand understated, Massey University researchers say

By February 22, 2019 Recent News

NZ Herald 22 February 2019
Family First Comment: The Drug Foundation released a dodgy report trying to argue that legal marijuana would make money for the country. But as we said at the time, they were wrong. Now it’s confirmed.
“These findings … suggest that any balanced evaluation of the impact of a regulated commercial cannabis market should include the possibility of increasing adult cannabis use and related health costs,” the Massey researchers wrote.  They added: “Those who disproportionately bear the harm of alcohol and tobacco use are also likely to disproportionately bear the harm of commercially available cannabis, including Maori, high-risk youth, those suffering mental illness and lower socio-economic groups.”


  • Previous study on cannabis legalisation estimated net social benefit of $225m/year
  • New journal article says social and health risks were understated in that report
  • US evidence indicates possibility for higher use and harm, journal authors say
  • Researchers say Kiwis need full picture of risks before they vote on legalisation

The risks of legalising cannabis in New Zealand have been understated, say a group of drug researchers.

In particular, the assumption that a legal cannabis market will not result in an increase in harm was misguided given evidence from the United States, the researchers from Massey University said.

New Zealanders will vote in a binding referendum on personal use of cannabis at next year’s general election.

Writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, researchers from the university’s SHORE and Whakiri Research Centre said they were broadly in support of cannabis law reform that was based on harm reduction.

But the group – led by respected drug researcher Professor Chris Wilkins – were concerned about a report released late last year which they said did not give an adequate picture of the potential risks of a commercial cannabis market in New Zealand.

That report, by economic consultancy Sense Partners, looked at the potential impact of several law reform options, including a legal, regulated market for cannabis. It concluded that such a market in New Zealand could generate $240 million in tax revenue and could have a net social benefit of $225m a year if health and education services were invested in.
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