Campaigner says her police officer father is voting to legalise cannabis

Justice advocate Julia Whaipooti says her father - a police officer for more than 20 years - plans to vote "yes" in this year's referendum on cannabis legalisation and control.

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Julia Whaipooti spoke to Breakfast about how she believes the current laws against cannabis are prejudicial to Māori. Source: Breakfast

New Zealand is just over a week away from election day on October 17, with voters this year also being asked to vote on two referendums - the End of Life Choice Bill and the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

Speaking to Breakfast, Whaipooti said she had "reluctantly" asked her father what he would be voting, and that "he said yes.

"Because not once in his 20 years on the front line did he ever show up to violence that was caused by cannabis use," she said.

"He's just saying that's not the role of police, on the most part, it's not something that causes harm and it shouldn't be something that we deal with."

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1 NEWS online’s political reporter Anna Whyte explains what the proposed law means and what both sides of the issue are saying. Source: 1 NEWS

Whaipooti said the most important part of the referendum for her was that it would decriminalise cannabis, and in effect it would lead to better outcomes for Māori in the justice system.

"Reform is not about whether cannabis is good or bad, it's actually about whether criminalisation for use is useful - the evidence tells it's not," she said.

The system as it stands "doesn't provide support or control over cannabis use and we also know that the criminalisation impacts Māori the most.

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"Police have recognised this in how they've acted over the past two decades - they themselves have wanted to shift away from prosecution.

"In saying that though, we know that where there's discretion, there is discrimination, which is the bias and racism that exists in our justice system.

"If cannabis is the gateway into our criminal justice system, it also perpetuates poor outcomes throughout the whole justice system - so for us, this is a very tangible step we can take to address the racism within the justice system."

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Whaipooti said legalisation and regulation will bring a level of control over outcomes, and allow more people to get treatment if they experience issues like addiction.

"Because its illegal there is a stigma to seeking help - we need to stop forcing people who need the support into the shadows."