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MPs 'very, very unprepared' for 'significant infrastructure change' required for legalisation of cannabis, US anti-cannabis activist says

The debate over legalising recreational cannabis has been lit up following the Government's release of details on the 2020 referendum.

However, New Zealand isn't the only place to debate the issue. Almost seven years ago, the US state of Colorado became a place where people could legally light up, and not everyone was happy about it.

"It was a really immediate change in the way people perceived the drug, first off, so you just saw much, much more use and as a parent, walking around - lighting up in the zoo parking lot, outside your local grocery stores - forced some awkward conversations with the kids," US anti-cannabis campaigner Ben Cort told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"From a larger scale perspective, we saw an almost immediate influx of huge money by the marijuana industry, and that industry kind of played the same game that alcohol and tobacco has always played, which is 'make as much money as quickly as we can,'" he said.

The Government's proposed cannabis 2020 referendum would allow for people aged 20 and above to buy the drug from a licensed store, and would have to be consumed on private properties such as a home or on a licensed premises.

The proposed legislation would also allow for the recreational drug be grown in homes and private cultivation would be regulated, but the number of plants Kiwis would be able to grow would be unclear.

The legislation will not be passed when the public votes, but will instead be passed after the election.

Mr Cort said being more careful in how we form legislation around the marketing of cannabis, such as advertising for the recreational drug, is "a really good start."

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Kiwis may soon be able to grow the plant legally in their own backyards. Source: 1 NEWS

However, he noted that several MPS, who he had spoken to in a recent visit, appeared to be "very, very unprepared, and didn't even understand what it would take to actually test to make sure that the quality control was there for both keeping pesticides out, the heavy metals and even the potency."

"We're talking about a significant infrastructure change that I don't think you guys are quite ready for. Advertising, one, but you've got to figure out how to keep this substance safe."

Mr Cort also argued that legalisation won't necessarily lead to people being aware of what they are smoking.

"It's easy to get caught up in desire to make moves quickly, without a full understanding of it. So yes, of course there are people who are consuming cannabis and they will always be consuming cannabis. The problem in Colorado is that now, more kids are consuming it than ever before, and when you bring these corporate interests in, they’re not just smoking weed; no, they’re eating gummy bears and they’re smoking concentrates - THC levels that medical science has never seen before.

"That's where we start to get into sort of the mental health issues which are really plaguing my home state."

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Ben Cort joined Breakfast to discuss the effect legalising cannabis had on his home state of Colorado. Source: Breakfast