Patrick Walsh: A yes vote on cannabis referendum will be a disaster for young people

By June 15, 2020 Recent News

NZ Herald 16 June 2020
Our additional comment: Patrick Walsh is principal at Rotorua’s John Paul College, a past president of the Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand, and a member of SAM-NZ – a coalition of community leaders and groups promoting a NO vote in the cannabis referendum.

No one disputes that marijuana is a harmful, addictive drug that has adverse effects on the physical and mental wellbeing of users.

These effects are accentuated on developing teenage brains.

Legalising cannabis use is in effect “legitimising” it so we will see an inevitable increase in its use by teenagers. My experience as a secondary school principal of 17 years tells me we will see more teenagers take it up if legalised.

This in turn will lead to more of the following behaviours in teenage users; driving while drugged, depression, suicidal ideation, poor academic results, truanting, and antisocial behaviour including crime and violence.

I have no confidence that the regulation proposed in the bill will work. Regulation has been a dismal failure with alcohol where binge drinking and drunk driving by under 18-year-olds remain persistent problems despite laws in place prohibiting it.

The same could also be said of vaping and synthetic cannabis which many teenagers engage in and where the law has failed miserably. We do not wish to criminalise teenagers for using cannabis and certainly the first options should always be an educative and therapeutic approach.

If this fails however there must be a final deterrent by having it remain on the statute books as a crime.

As a principal I have seen first hand the devastating effects of cannabis use on teenagers, their whanau and other victims. These other victims include the innocent drivers they hit, those assaulted and employers when there is a no show at work.

To be clear, I fully support medicinal use of cannabis prescribed by a doctor with a clear medical purpose. What we are being asked however in this referendum is to vote “Yes” to recreational cannabis use so people can get a legal high.


Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Nicola says:

    I agree.

  • Sarah says:

    Well said. More people who know first hand the devastating effect of this need to speak up. It seems that the narrative being reported in the media is biased towards the legalisation of cannabis. I don’t feel that there is a enough discussion going on rather that people are being duped into believing this is the best and only option. Doesn’t help when former Prime Minister puts her stamp of approval on it!! We need to be so careful about making the right decision because the wrong decision will have far reaching and devastating ramifications.

  • Carol says:

    Well said.
    As a parent of 3 and I have seen first hand the damage this has done to our family With verbal and physical abuse, with them needing to smoke it everyday. It’s not when it has been smoked it’s when they are getting withdrawal and needing a smoke
    Also the need for them to sleep more in turn them not wanting to go to work or school.
    It’s been a real struggle for my husband and myself we won’t be voting for it

  • Nath says:

    Bad for lungs in a nation that says ‘let’s be smoke free’. Bad for mental health in a nation that says ‘we have had enough and want to roll back on suicide ‘. Bad for men’s fertility in a country that’s full of fellas settling down later and later to start families. Bad for road safety when when we have a nation aiming for a zero road toll, and campaigns advocating for no drug-driving and yet cannabinoids have a half life in our bloodstrream of thirty days so it’s bad for our productivity. It’s a bad message to send to kids and our young people, and this govt needs to change.

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