Cannabis referendum a risk for industry
LOST IN THE NOISE SURROUNDING THE COVID-19 pandemic, the response to it, and the upcoming election, is the fact that on September 19 voters will also be faced with two extremely important referendums. The vote on voluntary euthanasia is not something that the Road Transport Forum has a position on. However, the other decision – on the legalisation of recreational cannabis use – most definitely is of concern to RTF.
“There are two aspects to the referendum that should worry us all,” says RTF’s Nick Leggett.
“The first is the fact that New Zealand already has a high level of drug use. We know that cannabis and other illegal substances are widespread, and despite being underground, are relatively easy to get hold of.
“By further liberalising drug law, we risk having cannabis use accepted as a normal part of life and the consequences swept under the carpet.
“I am no wowser, and am not advocating the prohibition of alcohol,” says Leggett. “But we do need to acknowledge the considerable harm drink-driving causes on our roads.
“Legalising something does not magically make the harm go away, and a recent study by the AA revealed that more road deaths involved drivers with drugs in their system than were over the legal alcohol limit. That, in the context of this referendum, is extremely concerning.”
While the Government is looking into roadside saliva-based drug testing, there is still no proven method to effectively test for drug impairment among drivers.
Says Leggett: “I would have thought a responsible government would want to establish a proven roadside testing regime before further legalising drug use.”
The second issue for RTF is around the health and safety implications of cannabis liberalisation: “We know that impairment is a significant contributor to workplace accidents and is, therefore, a major health and safety concern. The problem is that there is no practical way for employers to test drug impairment.
“As we now have some of the strictest health and safety laws in the world, responsibility and liability for having drug-impaired workers falls squarely on business owners and boards. The consequences of the referendum result on that should make all of us nervous.
“So, while it is easy to focus on the economic consequences of COVID-19 and how we can shepherd our businesses through what is a very difficult period, we must also consider the possible implications of this referendum,” says Leggett.
“Legalising recreational cannabis will have social consequences for all NZers, yet for a safety-sensitive, compliance-heavy industry like ours, it could make doing business significantly more dangerous.”
HOW WILL THE REFERENDUM ON CANNABIS WORK?
The cannabis referendum wording has recently been confirmed as:
Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
As stated at referendums.govt.nz, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis and covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis. It would allow a person aged 20 years or over to: buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day from licensed outlets enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed premise grow up to 2 plants, with a maximum of 4 plants per household share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over
SO, WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE REFERENDUM?
If more than 50% of people vote ‘No’, recreational cannabis would remain illegal, as is the current law. If more than 50% of people vote ‘Yes’, recreational cannabis wouldn’t be legal straight away, as the incoming Government would be required to bring a Bill to Parliament that would legalise and set the rules around cannabis use.
The lack of a proven roadside testing regime for drug impairment is a major concern for RTF
The safety implications of cannabis liberalisation are potentially serious for the road transport industry