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Jacqui Dean rejects claim cannabis laws encourage synthetic cannabis use


Article by The Timaru Herald Story by Jack Montgomerie

A South Canterbury MP has rebuffed campaigners’ claims New Zealand drug laws encourage the use of illegal synthetic cannabis.

MP for Waitaki, National’s Jacqui Dean, rejected the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party’s claim people were being “forced to synthetics” on Thursday.

In a written statement, the party said “the black market has made safer natural alternatives too hard to find for many people”.

Waimate man Eli Ward revealed on January 16 he kicked a five year synthetic cannabis addiction only by working on fishing boats. He said his habit started when he and his friends ran out of cannabis and used a synthetic substitute instead.

Ward estimated there were hundreds of “fulltime smokers” in the region.

Party leader Julian Crawford said synthetic cannabis was “far more dangerous” than cannabis, and its use was the result of “poor Government policy”.

Dean said the Government had no plans to change laws prohibiting cannabis.

A Waimate District cannabis cultivator, who declined to give his name, said police helicopter busts in 2015 “took a lot of weight out of the market”.

Dry weather around the start of the year had made matters difficult for growers, including some he said built clandestine irrigation dams on rivers.

“The scarcity and price is definitely driving people to synthetics, obviously causing all the mayhem we are seeing in Waimate with busts and lives destroyed,” the cultivator said.

He suggested he would be able to hire workers to tend the crops were cannabis legalised.

MP for Rangitata, National’s Jo Goodhew, said the Government had no plans to change cannabis laws.

“I believe that the benefits of decriminalisation or legalising cannabis do not outweigh the harm it causes to society,” Goodhew said.

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