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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is pleased with the referendum result rejecting the legalisation of cannabis. There was a groundswell of support for reforming cannabis law towards a more health-based approach by many who voted ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in this referendum, but disagreement about how this should be implemented.

The Salvation Army supports efforts towards developing robust, health-focused legislation that reforms the current ad-hoc decriminalisation that has incrementally taken place in recent years. Instead, The Salvation Army calls for legislation that provides comprehensive and well thought-through decriminalisation. There needs to be a detailed implementation plan that includes, among other things, the further removal of criminal sanctions for casual use of cannabis; a clear emphasis on funding health promotion and education with the aim of reducing the use of cannabis; and significant funding for treatment of cannabis addiction so that users can be referred for the appropriate level of drug treatment.

The Salvation Army also sees the need to increase awareness around the separate issue of Medicinal Cannabis. We believe many voters mistakenly believed this was covered by the Cannabis Referendum. It was made legal for doctors to prescribe Medicinal Cannabis in April 2020. Medical professionals must receive adequate training in prescribing this where appropriate and there needs to be education for patients that this is available legally.

The Salvation Army believes that the debate over the cannabis referendum was helpful; the ideas that have been developed around decriminalisation should not be wasted. It is now important to focus on developing strong legislation around decriminalisation. The harms associated with cannabis will not evaporate because legalisation has been rejected. The Salvation Army sees on a daily basis much of this harm in the people we serve through our addiction programmes.

We therefore call for the Government to work with experts in the area of addiction and health towards reforming the legislation with a focus on decriminalisation.