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Legalising cannabis an opportunity to regulate drug authorities have 'very little control over' - law expert

An associate law professor says the Government's bill to look at legalising cannabis in New Zealand is an opportunity to bring the drug under control.

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Khylee Quince is one of the faces of the NZ Drug Foundation's Vote Yes - On Our Terms campaign. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday, the New Zealand Drug Foundation jumped into the cannabis referendum debate with the launch of its new campaign Vote Yes - On Our Terms.

Well-known faces call on Kiwis to support cannabis law reform in a bold move from the foundation which is focused on countering the harmful effects of narcotics.

Associate Professor Khylee Quince from AUT, told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning that reform will lead to better outcomes for health, education and justice.

"I think the messaging so far in the legislation, the draft legislation, is really strong. It says that this is not open slather, obviously even the name of the legislation, it's the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, so this is an opportunity to control a substance that at the moment we have very little control over.

"Most New Zealanders have used it, most adult New Zealanders have used it, clearly it's illegal status doesn't put people off and they're able to find it so they have access to it, so this is attempting to ring fence some of those issues."

However, Massey University researcher Chris Wilkins, told Breakfast the bill needs to be clearer.

"Our role as researchers is to really talk about evidence and do some analysis our self in the first instance, the second thing that we're interested in doing is just getting the Government talking about their option and maybe improving what's on the bill in terms of being more clear about things like taxation, the role for benefit, companies and also talking about things like potency - what level of potency will be in the legal market."

One of the purposes of the bill is to eliminate the illegal cannabis market in New Zealand, but Mr Wilkins said, based on overseas evidence, legalising cannabis "does to a relatively good job of getting rid of the black market but you're not going to eliminate the black market".

"It's really important to debate and look at evidence, so the actual track record of legal cannabis markets overseas have been pretty mixed so it's something like 50 per cent of people are now accessing through the legal market, but only about 30 per cent are exclusively accessing through the legal market."