SAM-NZ (Smart Approaches To Marijuana NZ) – Position Statement

By June 7, 2020 Recent News


Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. It plays a significant role in domestic violence, crime, accidents, mental disorders and lost productivity.

The referendum proposed by the Government on the legalisation of marijuana / cannabis will therefore be a watershed moment for the health and well-being of all New Zealanders.

Legalising the drug would in effect legitimise and increase its use in New Zealand. Regulations and the educative approach have failed to prevent the abuse of alcohol in this country with all of us having to suffer its adverse consequences in road accidents, violence and anti-social behaviour.

When education and regulation fail, the legal status of the drug is the only bottom line to prevent its wholesale adoption with all of the negative consequences for us as a nation.

Smart Approaches To Marijuana NZ (SAM-NZ) is an alliance of community organisations and leaders (including ex-addicts, educators, ex-police, addiction counsellors, health professionals and community workers), and opposes any attempt to legalise cannabis, based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.

We argue that drug use is both a criminal and a health issue. A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus predominantly on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy. But if those with addictions commit serious offences, as does happen, the criminal law cannot simply turn a blind eye. The community still needs to be protected.

We fully support the increased provision and funding of drug counselling services, drug treatment centres and drug education programmes in schools. These should remain our preferred ‘smart’ approach to cannabis use.

This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and health. People should always come before profits.

Retaining it as a criminal offence sends a clear and unequivocal message that New Zealanders regard drug use as a dangerous and unacceptable form of recreation.

We urge New Zealanders to be fully informed on this debate, to think deeply on the implications, and to vote NO to legalising cannabis in the referendum.


Aaron Ironside – Spokesperson / Counsellor

Pat Buckley – Amped4Life Trust

Pat Walsh – Secondary School Principal, former head of a Principal’s Ass’n

                              Imraan Ali – New Zealand Muslim Association

Rev Pane Kawhia – Anglican Minister, Ruatoria

Christine Rankin – Transforming Justice Foundation

Dr Ate Moala – PACYFIC Trust

Vic Tamati – Community Worker

Mo McLeary – Drug Free Ambassadors

Dr Andreas LeinfellnerPaediatrician.

Kirk Hardy – The Drug Detection Agency

Alli Axford – Educator

Mazin Al-Salim – Working Together Group (WTG)

Sully Pa’ea – Community Worker – South Auckland

Maureen MacDonald – Drug-ARM Wellington

Wayne Mulqueen – Focus on the Family NZ

Jess McVicar – Sensible Sentencing Trust

Dave Pizzini – Ex-Police (Detective Senior Sergeant)

Bob McCoskrie – Family First NZ / World Federation Against Drugs

Darryl Wesley – Health professional

Stuart Caldwell – Get Smart (Tauranga)

Brendon Warne – Anti-P Ministries

Alan Vink – LeadershipWorx

Dale Kirk – Methcon

Stuart Lange – NZ Christian Network

Nick Tuitasi QSM – Pacific Wave

John Subritzky – Promise Keepers

Rob Nordstrom – Rubicon Alcohol & Other Drug

Gaylene Fraser – Educator

Karrin Coates – Sensible Sentencing Group Trust

Greer Keane – Te Ata Rangi Rangatahi

Glenn Dobson – International Board Member – National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association (NDASA)

Gayann Phillips – NZ Christian Network

Christina Stroud – Think Again-Risk Management in the Workplace

Ismail  Waja – Working Together Group (WTG)

Bruce Couper – Ex-Police

Phil Paikea – Community Worker

Trevor Turner – Educator

Ronji Tanielu – Community Worker

Allan Va’a – Community Worker – South Auckland

Bev Adair-Beets – Youth Advocate

Piripi Rakete – Educator

Dr Kevin Sabet – SAM Smart Approaches to Marijuana (US)

Luke Niforatos – SAM Smart Approaches to Marijuana

Authorised by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) NZ, c/- 28 Davies Ave, Manukau City 2241



  • Ray Lee says:

    Humans all have an Endocannabinoid system. CBD is present in breastmilk. Educate yourself.

  • Chris Kitson says:

    At this time, I still don’t know which way I’ll vote on the day. I’m still researching it, etc.
    However, a very strong argument for voting “No”, is found at:–bill-opponents

  • Karl says:

    Ask yourself, if your 16yr old child was going to try cannabis for the first time, would you sooner they purchased this from a licensed and regulated supplier or from a gang. I know the answer for many will be ‘not at all’, but the reality is it is going to happen for a majority of kids.

    With one you will know exactly the potency and what to expect, with the other it’s a lottery. Imagine if you had a glass of alcohol and didn’t know if it was going to have the potency of beer or whiskey.

    There really is only one correct answer here. Vote yes and take the power away from the gangs.

    Other countries and US states have done the hard work for us. Look at the factual evidence of how it’s gone for them.

  • Derek Nash says:

    Portugal decriminalized drugs and they don’t have any problems.

  • Tim says:

    Karl is correct, regardless of whether it is legal or not, people are still going to do it, and having it illegal is charging people unnecessarily and taking up resources in law enforcement that could be better used elsewhere. The money can be taken out of drug dealers hands and put into our recovering economy during this hard time.

    There are clear medical benefits to the drug and it can help a lot of people. A really good two part show was run featuring Patrick Gower that has some really compelling points, especially when he was initially against it going into it.

  • Nah says:

    There is absolutely no valid argument for the status quo to continue. Keep spreading that propaganda though….

    “People should always come before profits.” Spot on…. so vote yes

  • Mike S says:

    Using outdated data, that has been cherry-picked, taken out of context, and intentionally misrepresented, to try and support your misguided agenda, sad.

    YOU STATE: [there has been an increase in drugged driving crashes]

    “The percent of fatalities with drivers who tested positive for Delta‐9 THC at the 5 ng/mL level was 8% in 2017, down from 13% in 2016.”
    ***It should be noted that the improved reporting for the specific level of Delta‐9 THC occurred in 2016, which makes a comparison to prior years invalid.***
    – Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13‐283 October 2018.

    YOU STATE: [there has been an increase in youth marijuana use]

    “The proportion of Colorado high school students reporting using marijuana ever in their lifetime remained statistically unchanged between 2005 and 2017. Further, there was no statistically significant difference between Colorado student responses compared to national data.”

    “The percentage of high school students reporting past 30‐day use also remained stable, with no significant changes between 2005 and 2017.”

    “The proportion of students trying marijuana before the age of 13 went down significantly in Colorado, from 9.2% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2017.”
    – Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13‐283 October 2018.

    YOU STATE: [that there are costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana]

    Firstly you quote a report commissioned by “The Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University”, that is not published in any reputable journal or peer-reviewed in a formal scientific manner.

    The report is FULL of inconsistencies, broad assumptions, and illogical inferences. There are also MAJOR ERRORS in how they have calculated the “costs”. They even cite ‘public-disturbance by loud parties where people are probably also taking marijuana’ as one of their supposed external costs. The costs to healthcare are based on a truly shoddy bit of unscientific guesswork involving using the “estimated average cost of ICU and hospital visits” which is totally misrepresentative. They also count the entire cost of putting the 9% of regular marijuana users through therapy!!!

    YOU STATE: [that the black market is thriving]

    United Nations World Drug Report 2020 – States that recent legalisation of cannabis has decreased black-market sales to a great extent in the areas where it has been enacted.

    YOU STATE: [that there have been sustained marijuana arrest rates]

    “In Colorado, the number of marijuana arrests decreased by 56% for Whites, 39% for Hispanics, and 51% for Blacks.”
    – Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13‐283 October 2018.

    YOU STATE: [that there may be an issue with tobacco company investment in marijuana ]

    New Zealand legislation will prohibit the advertisement of cannabis products.

    YOU STATE: [It plays a significant role in domestic violence]

    There is a lot of conflicting data in this area, and it is almost impossible to differentiate between acts of violence being caused by cannabis, or violent people/criminals/people involved in gangs, etc., being more likely to be frequent users of cannabis. Additionally, as there have been no studies that show significant increases in cannabis use after legalisation, the point is irrelevant. There is also no consideration for the potential decrease in violence caused by people’s decreased interactions with gangs and other criminals, gang turf wars, etc.

    YOU STATE: [It plays a significant role in crime]

    The most major link to crime in New Zealand is a direct result of its current illegality, studies in Colorado have shown that marijuana-related crime has not been negatively impacted by legalisation.
    – Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13‐283 October 2018

    YOU STATE: [It plays a significant role in accidents, mental disorders and lost productivity]

    As there have been no studies that show significant increases in cannabis use after legalisation, the point is irrelevant. It also does not take into account the huge boost to productivity that will be produced by creating a legal market. It also ignores the fact that people who may have felt isolated from society due to their illegal consumption of cannabis, may feel more compelled to participate in a society that is more accepting of them and their lifestyle choices, and also make people with problems to be more likely to access health and mental services.

  • Jamie says:

    The status quo has failed us for too long.

    As an ex drug user i can very much assure you the least safe part of any drug i ever took was the fact it was illegal.

    The unregulated and underground nature of the market means that there is no quality control, which in itself is dangerous enough but it also leads to only one option for a refund. Violence.

    Add that to territorial scuffles and pushers of harder drugs and you have a recipie for disaster.

    No one should do drugs of any kind, including alcohol, but we have decades of evidence that the drug war is a failure and centuries of evidence that humans all enjoy escapism.

    I appreciate what you think you are doing, i know you all mean well, but treating drug issues as criminal is some stone age logic, if we want to help we need well regulated markets and better access to help both pre and post drug use.

    Rethink what you are doing for the sale of humanity, please.

  • Cameron J. MSc says:

    The current status quo is an untenable situation:
    1) Gangs and criminals control the supply and distribution. They don’t care about selling to kids, there is no quality control (could be laced with meth or harmful chemicals), they are profiting -increasing their power and attraction to new members, and the country is foregoing billions in tax revenue (Colorado, about the same population as New Zealand has gathered over 1.2 Billion in cannabis tax revenue).
    2) Small time growers and users are criminalised for what is effectively a victimless crime. Ruining their future career prospects, and alienating them from society.
    3) People will smoke it anyway, usage rates have not been shown to change significantly before and after legalisation, but you can avoid all of the negative impacts caused by it being criminalised.
    4) Less cost to police, courts, prison system of criminal enforcement. They will have more resources in both time and money to fight more important matters, like violent crime, meth etc.
    5) People are more likely to access medical and mental health for cannabis related harm if the stigma, and/or fear of prosecution is lifted.

    How is your proposed STATUS QUO, going to improve New Zealand? It is an abject failure that has not achieved any positive results, or reduced harm. Why is it suddenly going to get results now?

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

  • Oscar Wolf says:

    If your “organisation” actually has the goal of creating a more positive outcome for the impact of cannabis in New Zealand, then you would surely be promoting a YES vote.

    All of the negative aspects of cannabis that you mention happening in New Zealand, are happening WITHIN the current system! And most of them are happening as a DIRECT RESULT of CURRENT LAW!

    If you believe in the STATUS QUO:
    Can you justify the billions of dollars going to gangs, instead of towards harm prevention?
    Can you justify the negative impacts to people’s lives that a cannabis conviction entails?
    Can you justify keeping people afraid of seeking help for harmful use?
    Can you justify the fact that otherwise law abiding individuals are currently forced to associate with gangs and criminals to purchase cannabis, and all of the associated problems that creates?
    Can you justify the money spent on policing / courts / prison etc., for what is essentially a victimless crime?
    Can you justify the fact that currently people are forced to consume untested products with no quality control and the associated dangers?

    Vote YES! Don’t be fooled by pseudo-science, misinformation and fear-mongering (I’m looking at you OP).

    All of the counter arguments to legalisation are fabricated propaganda from the religious right-wing, and various outfits with vested interests like testing companies etc.

  • TruthInGOD says:

    Tobacco, alcohol, sugar, junk-food, sunbathing, meat consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, violence in the media, religious extremism, all cause much more harm than cannabis. This is also not considering the added negative impact these things would have if they were currently illegal and controlled by gangs and crims with no regulation.

    You should be all for putting people in jail for selling hamburgers and fries, or spending more than 10 minutes in the sun without protection if you are against legalising cannabis.

  • ProperValues says:

    Say NOPE to right-wing, anti-science, Christian propaganda! Vote YES.

  • d d wescot says:

    All the above comments set out THE FACTS , patrick Kenedys SAM outfit is but a sad throwback to the US 1930`S whence racist sentiment produced the egregious drugwar -then ramped up by the equally racist & disgraced Richard Nixon in the 70`s . Please look at the history & politicks SAM NZ !!

  • Alex says:

    VOTE YES! We want it gone from gangs. Tax Weed Save Life’s !

  • Derek Nash says:

    Totally agree with most of the posts above. You have used a lot of cherry-picked (and discredited) research to support your claims. You people should start SMAAD (Smart Approaches to Alcohol Damage)
    Vote YES.

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