I wrote Andrew Little (leader of the opposition in New Zealand, as well as Jacinda Ardern (deputy leader), Grant Robertson (spokesperson for Employment) and Clare Curran (spokesperson for ICT) an email:
Hi Andrew, Jacinda, Grant, Clare.
I’m a 31 year old IT professional who’s been working in Wellington for four years since I graduated with my computer science degree.
I’m writing to tell you why I’m currently looking for work in Melbourne.
Firstly – there’s the standard reasons many New Zealanders leave New Zealand:
– I’m hopeful that I’ll earn more money in Melbourne.
– I’m yet to have an OE and I want to see the world.
There’s also the IT specific reasons – I enjoy the culture of Wellington – but a lot of the work here tends to be for government, which isn’t the best place to do IT. It seems that Melbourne (and cities like Berlin) have a more exciting, fast paced IT culture.
But also another reason I’m looking at moving. It’s really hard to find cannabis in New Zealand.
I know this sounds absurd – but hear me out.
Firstly – be aware that it’s much harder to find cannabis now, than it was ten years ago. The Guardian even wrote about it.
I think that this is probably the result of the police being good at their job, and career criminals finding it it more profitable to be involved with meth than cannabis, as well as the relative isolation and small population of New Zealand.
I think often politicians adopt the attitude that ‘Yes, cannabis is illegal, but it’s tolerated, we turn a blind eye to it, and its illegal status doesn’t really affect those otherwise law abiding citizens who smoke’. But this isn’t actually true. Let’s look at the options someone like myself has:
– Not use cannabis. (I’ll address this in a bit).
– Purchase cannabis on the blackmarket. This puts me in the awkward position of having to ask the people I know if they know where to find cannabis – and – in my experience, they don’t. I end up having to purchase some from gang controlled tinny houses – where it’s low quality and very expensive.
– Grow my own. ‘Grow your own’ appears to be the growing sentiment in the cannabis community. The problem with this is that it doesn’t suit everybody’s living situation. For example if you have a strict landlord, or you have flatmates, then you’re inviting trouble. I could rent a grannyflat for the purpose of having the privacy of growing on my own cannabis, but this would be around $200/week extra – or the cost of $10,000 a year.
Now you might say ‘if consuming cannabis is so much trouble, perhaps you’re better off not smoking it’. And you might be right. Where I’m currently at, I’m considering that smoking cannabis isn’t right for me – I tend to get more done when I’m not smoking.
However – I don’t need prohibition to make that decision for me. Even if I’m not smoking cannabis – I still find it frustrating not being able to make that decision for myself. Also, even if I’m not smoking regularly – I might want to smoke over the New Year period at a music festival – but the cannabis situation is so dire in New Zealand that I might not have that option. I’m better off attending a festival in Australia, if smoking weed is something I want to do at it.
So – I’m considering leaving New Zealand – for opportunities abroad, not just solely for the availability cannabis. But the cannabis issue feels the straw that breaks the camels back. It feels like politicians (except for the Greens) don’t really care about what’s important to me, or many of other New Zealanders, and that’s incredibly frustrating. I get that Labour, quite rightfully feels like housing is a more important issue – but Labour can address more than one issue at a time – and I wish that they’d tackle this low hanging fruit already.
Here is Andrew Little’s response:
Dear David Thanks for writing about the decriminalisation of cannabis. Labour’s key priorities are housing, health, jobs and education and that’s where our focus is.
I’m personally very uncomfortable about increasing access to cannabis, particularly to young people. The scientific and medical evidence I’ve seen says that most of the cannabis available in New Zealand has high THC content and for still developing brains, that poses health risks. Finding a formula for decriminalisation that means you could mitigate those health risks would be extraordinarily difficult. We will not make holding a referendum on cannabis a priority when in government.
We firmly support cannabis products being available for medicinal use, however, where its use is prescribed by a GP or specialist where a person has a terminal illness or chronic pain.
Thanks for writing
Leader of the Oppostion