Cannabis ref­er­en­dum a risk for in­dus­try

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

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.”


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 ref­er­en­, 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


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

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