Taxation and regulation better than prohibition at reducing harm from marijuana, says NZIER

24 August 2016

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media release, 23 August 2016
Embargoed until 1am 24 August 2016

“The recent discussion on marijuana has proceeded as if the status quo and allowing unlimited use are the only options”, NZIER Principal Economist Peter Wilson said. “There is another alternative, which we explore in a new publication released today.”

A better way to cut use

NZIER asked the question: what is the best way to achieve the government’s policy aim of reducing harm from marijuana use?

Our conclusion is that a five-pronged approach should be investigated:

  1. legalise personal use
  2. reduce demand with a tax
  3. regulate supply, to ensure users know what they are smoking
  4. educate people to make informed choices
  5. monitor use and effects.

Overseas experience provides evidence, not necessarily a precedent

We are not suggesting that New Zealand follow some US states and move away from harm reduction as a policy. But what is happening there is providing valuable new evidence about the use and effects of marijuana. “We should be actively using this evidence to test whether our current approach is still the best available”, Peter Wilson said.
One particular area that should be studied with particular care is the Colorado government’s position on marijuana that “legal does not mean safe”. Is this message getting through?

An additional benefit

“Legalisation could also bring new opportunities for New Zealand firms to research the medical use of marijuana”, Peter Wilson added.
NZIER’s Insight The High Cost of (Not) Stopping People Getting High is available here.

For further information, please contact:
Peter Wilson
Principal Economist & Head of Auckland Business
Ph +64 21 870 928, peter.wilson@nzier.org.nz

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