Marijuana activist Phil Saxby passed through Wairarapa yesterday on a tour to drum up support for reform advocacy group Norml New Zealand.
Mr Saxby is president and spokesman of Norml - the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and he said Wairarapa has had a "strong branch here".
"People tell me that it's a big growing area and that there is a lot of use in Masterton."
Mr Saxby said Norml membership peaked in about 1999 to 2000, when the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis party was running for Parliament.
He said the party had its highest support in smaller, rural areas, which surprised him because he expected rural voters to be National Party supporters.
The push to increase support for Norml comes as the New Zealand Law Commission undertakes a comprehensive review of New Zealand drug laws, and Mr Saxby wants Norml to be a consulting party in that review.
He said he was disappointed in the lack of Parliamentary support last week for a bill allowing medicinal cannabis use, particularly the fact that no National Party voters supported the conscience vote.
Mr Saxby said the health vote would have been a step towards achieving Norml's aims.
"It is a foot in the door in one sense; the opposition sees it that way, where what we really need is to reflect cannabis position as a normal part of New said Norml's Zealand society."
Sporting a "not cool in school" marijuana leaf T-shirt, Mr Saxby position has always been that alcohol should be an adults-only drug.
"It's better if children wait until they're 18."
He sees a regulated system as being a way to prevent under-age sales.
"The suppliers know they'll lose their licences, but you don't see the tinny houses asking for ID."
He says the key to successfully dealing with cannabis is "treating it as a health issue rather than putting people in jail".
Asked about his experience advocating for something that is currently illegal, Mr Saxby said it has "created some trouble with the in-laws".
He described himself as "basically a non-user" who occasionally has "hash cookies".
He admits there are "some people who shouldn't be using cannabis" such as those with a predisposition to mental illness, although some of those claimed the drug helped their condition.
"We'd like to see a health-based approach rather than a criminal-based approach."
8th July 2009