Decriminalising cannabis could reduce availability of and demand for meth, experts say

Demcrimilisation of cannabis could lower methamphetamine use in New Zealand, experts say.

Massey University drug researcher, Associate Professor Chris Wilkins told TVNZ1's Breakfast that there are mixed findings of the topic, and while more research needs to be done, there is opportunity for the legalisation of cannabis to lower the availability and demand of meth, which is especially prominent in small, rural towns.

"We have heard those stories where people are out to get cannabis, where they just can't get cannabis and they're being offered meth, so it seems a really perverse kind of market out there," Mr Wilkins says.

"I think there really is an opportunity maybe that the decriminalisation or legalisation (of cannabis) may have an impact but really the research is a little mixed, it's a bit early to tell yet."

Police Association President Chris Cahill also told Breakfast, "our key opinion around the cannabis referendum is get educated, understand all the implications - how's it going to affect mental health, how's it going to affect youth, drug driving.

"But one of the things that could be a positive is if the availability of cannabis improves, because gangs have suppressed the availability ... maybe less meth will be used."

Mr Cahill says meth-use drives a lot of crime and it is communities that are hit the hardest.

"It's driving domestic violence, it's driving violent crime, and it's driving a lot of the burglaries, and the thefts in these communities," Mr Cahill says.

"We're now seeing, pretty much, weekly shootings of gang members - pretty much open warfare - and that's all around market share. The gangs have grown, they've got more sophisticated, we've got new gangs from Australia and that's moving to that violence and it's all driven around trying to make money out of methamphetamine."

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Police Association President Chris Cahill and Massey University Chris Wilkins appear on Breakfast. Source: Breakfast

Police had to continue to tackle the top-end drug importers, but also get into the communities and understand what's driving the demand for meth, Mr Cahill says.

"We certainly don't have the drug addiction treatments that we need in New Zealand, especially not in provincial and rural New Zealand."

Mr Wilkins says, "methamphetamine is a driver of crime, but it's also a symptom of problems in these smaller towns, in places, like high unemployment, housing problems as well, so poverty is also a driver of that."

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Brave children affected by the meth use of their mothers while pregnant share their story. Source: Sunday

Research estimates about 30,000 New Zealanders use meth.

"There's massive amounts of methampetamine being used, really low prices and it seems to be really affecting some smaller rural towns," Mr Wilkins says.

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Police Association President Chris Cahill and Massey University Chris Wilkins spoke to Breakfast about the problem of meth. Source: Breakfast