Alliance of Community Leaders & Organisations Launch ‘Vote NO’ Campaign

By June 8, 2020 Media Release

Media Release 8 June 2020
An alliance of community organisations and leaders (including ex-addicts, educators, ex-police, addiction counsellors, health professionals and community workers) have joined together to form Smart Approaches To Marijuana NZ (SAM-NZ), and will work together to oppose any attempt to legalise cannabis in New Zealand in the upcoming referendum.

“We’re pleased to have such a wide-ranging group of organisations and experts from all areas of society to come together to argue against legalising the recreational use of cannabis, based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“The use of cannabis is associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including educational delay, welfare dependence, increased risks of psychotic symptoms, major depression, increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, increased risks of tobacco use, increased risks of other illicit drug use, and respiratory impairment.”

“At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we go and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?”

The New Zealand coalition has aligned itself with the prominent US group SAM which is led by Dr Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations (Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations) – the only drug policy staffer to have ever served as a political appointee in a Democrat and Republican administration.

“Our NZ coalition is stoked to be aligned with such a credible organization as SAM. SAM’s Staff and Science Advisory Board is composed of world-recognised experts in research, addiction, and treatment who work tirelessly to advance public health and safety, and stand up to a powerful marijuana industry.”

(Smart Approaches To Marijuana NZ) 


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 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: SAM-NZ
Pat Buckley                               Amped4Life Trust
Imraan Ali                             New Zealand Muslim Association
Pat Walsh                                  Secondary School Principal, former head of a Principal’s Ass’n
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 Leinfellner         Paediatrician.
Kirk Hardy                               The Drug Detection Agency
Alli Axford                               Drug Free World
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
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                        Drug Free World
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                     World Federation Against Drugs
Ismail  Waja                            Working Together Group (WTG)
Bruce Couper                          Ex-Police
Phil Paikea                               Community Worker
Trevor Turner                         Drug Free World
Ronji Tanielu                          Community Worker
Allan Va’a                                Community Worker – South Auckland
Bev Adair-Beets                     Youth Advocate
Piripi Rakete                           Drug Free World
Dr Kevin Sabet                       SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
Luke Niforatos                       SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)