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Legalising marijuana could save $400m - report

By aemetha, Jul 19, 2016 | Updated: Jul 20, 2016 | | |
Rating:
4/5,
  1. aemetha

    Decriminalising cannabis could save the Government $400 million a year and even generate tax revenue, a Treasury report has revealed.

    A report uncovered by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey has revealed the Government could be making $150 million a year by legalising the drug for medicinal and recreational purposes.

    Ms Grey uncovered the 2013 report this month while trying to work out the savings people could make taking medicinal cannabis instead of prescription drugs.

    The document for an internal Treasury forum indicates reforming drug policies would save money, ease pressure on the justice system and result in fewer convictions for youth and Māori.

    "We spend about $400 million per year enforcing prohibition, and we could generate $150 million a year in revenue from taxing cannabis," it says.

    It was released by Finance Minister Bill English after an Official Information Act request, but he denied it is Treasury's official position.

    "The document was not official advice or a recommendation from Treasury. It was a document prepared by a single staff member for an internal forum and did not come to me," Mr English said.

    The report also suggests "palatable reforms" including swapping criminal drug penalties for civil penalties including rehabilitation while keeping drugs illegal.

    NZN
    Read more: http://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/leg...d-save-400m---report-2016071913#ixzz4EsWBGzNu

Comments

  1. Alfa
    $150 million a year in taxes seems quite on the low side considering that new Zealand has a GDP total of 173 billion.
  2. nomud
    From what I've heard is when they legalize that the tax is more often than not higher
    than the contraband premiums.Thus, the trend becomes tax free bootlegging. ;)
  3. aemetha
    The treasury report despite being referenced for most things doesn't have references for it's estimated tax revenues or the enforcement savings. Having said that, they are treasury so they would have probably been referencing themselves. The enforcement savings statistics were based on 2005/2006 data and the report itself is three years old, so the current estimates would inevitably be higher.

    I've attached a copy of the report if anyone is interested.
  4. aemetha
    [IMGR="Legal cannabis could collect $150 million a year but Bill English isn't pursuing it Collecting an extra $150 million a year in tax revenue at a time when the health, education and housing sectors are all screaming out for money – sounds like a no-brainer, right? The catch? Legalising cannabis. This week Nelson lawyer Sue Grey revealed through an Official Information Act request some informal notes from Treasury, which calculated that legalisation would not only generate money, but also save $400m a year on enforcement of drug prohibition. Treasury noted two options for dealing with drug reform. First, decriminalisation, which would satisfy international treaties by keeping drug use illegal but with criminal penalties swapped for civil penalties, such as rehabilitation treatment for people who need it. The full-throttle option is legalisation, which means the Government could generate revenue from the sale and production of some drugs while reducing enforcement costs further. Treasury says, particularly for lower-harm drugs already widely available, "this wouldn't have any big negative impacts". It notes a number of countries are already moving in this direction. Denmark, Germany, Portugal and parts of Australia and the United States have all decriminalised the possession of cannabis to varying degrees. "Their experiences have been positive and don't seem to have increased drug use." Treasury also noted drug reform isn't a "particularly radical idea these days". "It's supported by The Economist and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, as well as reports by our health select committee and the Law Commission." So now that information dating back to 2013 has gone public and people are talking about it, what is Treasury's position? A spokesman says money saving/generating from cannabis hasn't been part of any formal work programme. There's been no formal analysis and the document was simply "high-level estimates from a variety of sources" but did not undergo the process of quality assurance as other policy would. In short, "it was a conversation starter" – apparently a common practice at Treasury to test ideas that are floating around. GOVERNMENT'S SPLIT OPINION So will Treasury take the idea further? No, says English. The minister's office says Treasury has not been asked to do any further work on this – in other words, the Government has no interest in pursing the legalisation of cannabis. And, personally, English doesn't favour legalisation either. So why no appetite from the Government? There's plenty of theories, from it being political dynamite especially for a third-term government, to concerns the drug and alcohol bods will revolt given that decriminalisation and legalisation often lead to a downturn for those industries. But there's one member of the Government who is a bit rogue on the issue. Admittedly UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne isn't a National Party member, but he is a minister and he's the one in charge of signing off on medicinal cannabis applications. Dunne "respects" that the Government has no interest in changing the legal status of cannabis but in his own view that position is the wrong one. "If you can grow a natural product in your backyard and someone else can manufacture something that's equivalent to that product, and the manufactured product can then be submitted for testing and be judged to be low risk and put on the market for sale, why can't you do the same with the natural product? "That's the thinking. Now of course things aren't as simple as that, but as a principle I think that's where I would see this heading," Dunne says. What he's talking about is the Psychoactive Substances Act once it's fully implemented. As to when that will be, it's like asking how long a piece of string is, says Dunne. "The real issue here is that we have not been able to finalise the testing regime because Parliament, quite properly, moved to ban animal testing. So at some point the international community will move similarly to ban animal testing, not just for psychoactive substances but across the board, so therefore alternatives will have to be developed." At that point, Dunne says, the regime will come "back into play" but that could be two, 10, 15 or even 20 years away. So from his perspective, once the act is fully operational cannabis will be able to be tested in the same way as any other drug is and "if it is deemed to be low risk and can be sold under the same conditions, i.e in R18-designated stores" then he says that's the right approach. "But we're not at that point." FINDING ANOTHER WAY Grey says an easy way to deal with cannabis, similar to how there are exemptions for drugs like morphine, would be to add it to regulation 22(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. Regulation 22 prevents any doctor or other person administering any controlled drug to any person without the prior approval of the minister. But the second part of the regulation creates an exemption for cocaine-based medicines and morphine products. "It would then be for doctors to prescribe whatever medicine they consider to be the most fit for purpose for the patient, depending on the needs of the patient," Grey says. "We trust doctors to make life-saving decisions for patients on a wide range of conditions, so this simple amendment would put cannabis on a similar footing to other medications." Former Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly echoes Grey's push for medical professionals to make the decisions, rather than ministers. Kelly, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer almost 18 months ago, has been illegally taking cannabis for many months. She says it has allowed her to keep living her life pain free. "Cannabis isn't a bad drug. I don't think it's good for teenagers, but I think we can regulate, control and understand it," she says. Grey is working with Kelly to help her get access to prescribed cannabis products overseas that she can bring back to New Zealand thanks to a loophole discovered by Grey's client, Rebecca Reider. The Golden Bay woman won a legal victory when she escaped conviction after being charged with importing medicinal cannabis products. So as laws start to crack around medicinal cannabis, what's the argument against decriminalisation or taking the leap to legalisation? WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS? Scientists in the United Kingdom, US, Europe and Australia are warning that frequent use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people at the same time as many of those governments are moving towards decriminalisation. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns cannabis can trigger mental health problems in people who seemed to be well before, "or it can worsen any mental health problems you already have". "The younger you are when you start using it, the more you may be at risk. This is because your brain is still developing and can be more easily damaged by the active chemicals in cannabis." Given most experts consider a brain not to be fully developed until the age of 25, having cannabis legally available in R18 stores could have a substantial effect on the mental health system. An Otago University report, Cannabis use in adolescence, by David Fergusson and Joseph Boden says cannabis is the drug most commonly used by New Zealand adolescents. "Estimates suggest that by the age of 21 in the region of 80 per cent of young people will have used cannabis on at least one occasion, with 10 per cent developing a pattern of heavy dependent use." There is increasing evidence that regular or heavy use of cannabis leads to increased risks of mental health problems, other forms of illicit drug use, school dropouts and educational under-achievement, motor vehicle collisions and injuries, the report says. GREY POWER WANTS ACCESS Health concerns aside, Grey Power is one of many voices throwing their weight behind loosening the rules around cannabis. A group of Northland retirees who say they have never taken illegal drugs are petitioning for medicinal marijuana on the basis the elderly should have the choice to die pain free. When the group went public about their petition, the Cannabis Party decided to join the fray, which reportedly led to Grey Power national president Tom O'Connor having a "heated stoush" with the party when he told them to stay out of Grey Power matters. It is understood O'Connor wasn't interested in a party pushing for legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes joining a Grey Power local chapter's campaign for medicinal marijuana. For the past two years medicinal cannabis has been hitting the headlines hard. https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51284&stc=1&d=1469395373 It really gained momentum in April last year when Nelson teenager Alex Renton was approved Elixinol, a cannabidiol product from the US, by Dunne. Since then it's been revealed the late Paul Holmes and Martin Crowe were both using cannabis for pain relief in their final months. Grey is calling for medicinal cannabis law reform to be an election issue when voters go to the polls next year. "Cannabis law reform may just become New Zealand's equivalent of Brexit – the issue which empowers the public to make their voice heard." Jo Moir Stuff http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/pol...ng-cannabis-but-bill-english-isnt-pursuing-it"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51284&stc=1&d=1469395373[/IMGR]
    Legal cannabis could collect $150 million a year but Bill English isn't pursuing it

    Collecting an extra $150 million a year in tax revenue at a time when the health, education and housing sectors are all screaming out for money – sounds like a no-brainer, right? The catch? Legalising cannabis.

    This week Nelson lawyer Sue Grey revealed through an Official Information Act request some informal notes from Treasury, which calculated that legalisation would not only generate money, but also save $400m a year on enforcement of drug prohibition. Treasury noted two options for dealing with drug reform. First, decriminalisation, which would satisfy international treaties by keeping drug use illegal but with criminal penalties swapped for civil penalties, such as rehabilitation treatment for people who need it. The full-throttle option is legalisation, which means the Government could generate revenue from the sale and production of some drugs while reducing enforcement costs further.

    Treasury says, particularly for lower-harm drugs already widely available, "this wouldn't have any big negative impacts". It notes a number of countries are already moving in this direction. Denmark, Germany, Portugal and parts of Australia and the United States have all decriminalised the possession of cannabis to varying degrees. "Their experiences have been positive and don't seem to have increased drug use." Treasury also noted drug reform isn't a "particularly radical idea these days". "It's supported by The Economist and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, as well as reports by our health select committee and the Law Commission."

    So now that information dating back to 2013 has gone public and people are talking about it, what is Treasury's position? A spokesman says money saving/generating from cannabis hasn't been part of any formal work programme. There's been no formal analysis and the document was simply "high-level estimates from a variety of sources" but did not undergo the process of quality assurance as other policy would. In short, "it was a conversation starter" – apparently a common practice at Treasury to test ideas that are floating around.

    GOVERNMENT'S SPLIT OPINION

    So will Treasury take the idea further? No, says English. The minister's office says Treasury has not been asked to do any further work on this – in other words, the Government has no interest in pursing the legalisation of cannabis. And, personally, English doesn't favour legalisation either.

    So why no appetite from the Government? There's plenty of theories, from it being political dynamite especially for a third-term government, to concerns the drug and alcohol bods will revolt given that decriminalisation and legalisation often lead to a downturn for those industries. But there's one member of the Government who is a bit rogue on the issue. Admittedly UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne isn't a National Party member, but he is a minister and he's the one in charge of signing off on medicinal cannabis applications. Dunne "respects" that the Government has no interest in changing the legal status of cannabis but in his own view that position is the wrong one. "If you can grow a natural product in your backyard and someone else can manufacture something that's equivalent to that product, and the manufactured product can then be submitted for testing and be judged to be low risk and put on the market for sale, why can't you do the same with the natural product? "That's the thinking. Now of course things aren't as simple as that, but as a principle I think that's where I would see this heading," Dunne says.

    What he's talking about is the Psychoactive Substances Act once it's fully implemented. As to when that will be, it's like asking how long a piece of string is, says Dunne. "The real issue here is that we have not been able to finalise the testing regime because Parliament, quite properly, moved to ban animal testing. So at some point the international community will move similarly to ban animal testing, not just for psychoactive substances but across the board, so therefore alternatives will have to be developed." At that point, Dunne says, the regime will come "back into play" but that could be two, 10, 15 or even 20 years away. So from his perspective, once the act is fully operational cannabis will be able to be tested in the same way as any other drug is and "if it is deemed to be low risk and can be sold under the same conditions, i.e in R18-designated stores" then he says that's the right approach. "But we're not at that point."

    FINDING ANOTHER WAY

    Grey says an easy way to deal with cannabis, similar to how there are exemptions for drugs like morphine, would be to add it to regulation 22(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. Regulation 22 prevents any doctor or other person administering any controlled drug to any person without the prior approval of the minister. But the second part of the regulation creates an exemption for cocaine-based medicines and morphine products. "It would then be for doctors to prescribe whatever medicine they consider to be the most fit for purpose for the patient, depending on the needs of the patient," Grey says. "We trust doctors to make life-saving decisions for patients on a wide range of conditions, so this simple amendment would put cannabis on a similar footing to other medications."

    Former Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly echoes Grey's push for medical professionals to make the decisions, rather than ministers. Kelly, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer almost 18 months ago, has been illegally taking cannabis for many months. She says it has allowed her to keep living her life pain free. "Cannabis isn't a bad drug. I don't think it's good for teenagers, but I think we can regulate, control and understand it," she says.

    Grey is working with Kelly to help her get access to prescribed cannabis products overseas that she can bring back to New Zealand thanks to a loophole discovered by Grey's client, Rebecca Reider. The Golden Bay woman won a legal victory when she escaped conviction after being charged with importing medicinal cannabis products. So as laws start to crack around medicinal cannabis, what's the argument against decriminalisation or taking the leap to legalisation?

    WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS?

    Scientists in the United Kingdom, US, Europe and Australia are warning that frequent use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people at the same time as many of those governments are moving towards decriminalisation.

    The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns cannabis can trigger mental health problems in people who seemed to be well before, "or it can worsen any mental health problems you already have". "The younger you are when you start using it, the more you may be at risk. This is because your brain is still developing and can be more easily damaged by the active chemicals in cannabis." Given most experts consider a brain not to be fully developed until the age of 25, having cannabis legally available in R18 stores could have a substantial effect on the mental health system.

    An Otago University report, Cannabis use in adolescence, by David Fergusson and Joseph Boden says cannabis is the drug most commonly used by New Zealand adolescents. "Estimates suggest that by the age of 21 in the region of 80 per cent of young people will have used cannabis on at least one occasion, with 10 per cent developing a pattern of heavy dependent use." There is increasing evidence that regular or heavy use of cannabis leads to increased risks of mental health problems, other forms of illicit drug use, school dropouts and educational under-achievement, motor vehicle collisions and injuries, the report says.

    GREY POWER WANTS ACCESS

    Health concerns aside, Grey Power is one of many voices throwing their weight behind loosening the rules around cannabis. A group of Northland retirees who say they have never taken illegal drugs are petitioning for medicinal marijuana on the basis the elderly should have the choice to die pain free. When the group went public about their petition, the Cannabis Party decided to join the fray, which reportedly led to Grey Power national president Tom O'Connor having a "heated stoush" with the party when he told them to stay out of Grey Power matters. It is understood O'Connor wasn't interested in a party pushing for legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes joining a Grey Power local chapter's campaign for medicinal marijuana.

    For the past two years medicinal cannabis has been hitting the headlines hard. It really gained momentum in April last year when Nelson teenager Alex Renton was approved Elixinol, a cannabidiol product from the US, by Dunne. Since then it's been revealed the late Paul Holmes and Martin Crowe were both using cannabis for pain relief in their final months.

    Grey is calling for medicinal cannabis law reform to be an election issue when voters go to the polls next year. "Cannabis law reform may just become New Zealand's equivalent of Brexit – the issue which empowers the public to make their voice heard."

    Jo Moir
    Stuff
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/pol...ng-cannabis-but-bill-english-isnt-pursuing-it
  5. aemetha
    Release of cannabis document sparked debate within Treasury about public access

    [IMGR="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51924&stc=1&d=1472260607[/IMGR]The release of a Treasury document on taxing cannabis sparked debate at the highest levels of the department - including when information could be withheld in future. And while some staff were unhappy with media coverage another manager argued Treasury should be involved in debates about groups "who get criminalised due to policies that don't work".

    A flurry of media articles followed the release of the internal document that contained brainstorming notes from 2013 and suggested the Government could earn $150 million from taxing legalised cannabis. As the story captured headlines, Treasury stressed that the documents were prepared for an internal forum designed to test policy thinking, and the findings weren't official.

    An email from a staff member to Treasury's executive leadership team on Tuesday July 19 contained a summary of media coverage, including headlines like, "Pot reform equals dollars and sense, says Treasury". "Despite us issuing statements (direct to media and via Twitter) clarifying the nature of the paper...media have run with the same story line," Treasury leaders were told.

    Two days later Ben McBride, Treasury's manager, health, sent a detailed email to the leadership group in response, in which he made a case for why the cannabis document and resulting debate wasn't a bad thing. "Releasing that info was consistent with Treasury's org strategy. Outward focused, inclusive, diverse, transparent, open," he wrote. "The feedback I got was that Treasury looked open to having discussion and debate and [are] not afraid who knows it. It counters the argument that Treasury is old fashioned, conservative and captured by politics."

    McBride said that while enough work had not been done to form a considered position on the issue, it was important to tackle such issues, particularly if Treasury was serious about helping the disadvantaged and improving outcomes for Maori. "[If we] want to move away from siloed agency thinking, which I know we are, then we need to engage in those debates about population cohorts who get criminalised due to policies that don't work. Then we shouldn't shy away from uncomfortable debates like this."

    Treasury released the cannabis document in response to an Official Information Act request from Nelson lawyer Sue Grey - who acted for a woman who last Friday successfully brought through Customs an ounce of cannabis prescribed to her in Hawaii.

    The OIA is designed to promote access to information held by Government agencies and its guiding principle is that information should be released unless there is good reason for it not to be. Specified reasons under the law include if the information is "free and frank" advice between officials and ministers.

    In his email, McBride told other Treasury staff that there had been no legal reason to decline the release of the cannabis document, and it did not meet the definition of free and frank advice because Treasury had not briefed Minister of Finance Bill English.

    In response, Catherine Atkins, deputy secretary, strategy, change and performance, said she could see the value in some forum material being released. "But other times particularly where we might be debating things that [are] really sensitive I don't understand why we can't use free and frank as grounds to withhold. "Releasing all forum would limit our ability to debate and discuss policy issues in an open way as I would be more concerned about what was written down."

    A senior Treasury lawyer summed up in a final email, saying releasing the cannabis document didn't create a precedent effect, and later that day Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf touched on the cannabis document release in an email to staff. There had been "confused commentary" in the media, he wrote, but that shouldn't stop Treasury being transparent. "We should help readers understand the context of what's being released, not forgetting of course the importance of observing the OIA's provisions that protect, for example, 'free and frank' advice or issues under active consideration."

    Treasury released the email correspondence (which can be read here) between staff members on its website after a further OIA request.

    Drawing on the Treasury cannabis document, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) yesterday released a report (which can be read here) that concluded that legalisation, combined with heavy taxation, regulation and education would be a better way of reducing social harm from the drug.

    Debate about cannabis reform has been stirred by former union leader Helen Kelly and the late Martin Crowe using the drug for medicinal pain relief, and new approaches taken overseas including in Australia. Last week the NZ Drug Foundation released new polling that showed almost 65 per cent of New Zealanders want personal possession of cannabis decriminalised or made legal.

    26 August 2016
    Nicholas Jones
    The New Zealand Herald
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11700603
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