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News (Media Awareness Project) - New Zealand: Column: Cash In On Green Grass Of Home
Title:New Zealand: Column: Cash In On Green Grass Of Home
Published On:2012-01-27
Source:New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:00:39

You don't have to smoke it to know cannabis is here to stay - so why
not make a buck from it?

I go into the yard to hang out washing, and smell it. I walk my
children to school through the leafy avenues of Mt Eden, and smell
it. I walk past a group of guys operating highly dangerous
construction equipment and, with some alarm, I smell it there too.

Now, either I'm walking around with a smouldering marijuana leaf
about my person (unlikely, as my married-with-young-kids lifestyle is
so lily-white it would make the Swiss Family Robinson vomit with
disgust), or every second person in New Zealand is on the
wacky-baccy. In fact, it's about 10 to 15 per cent of us, according
to a recent study in the medical journal The Lancet. Kiwis and
Aussies are among the world's highest users of cannabis.

To my mind, this drug is completely loathsome. It makes people talk a
load of bollocks, for one thing, but also plays a starring role in
cancers, lung disease and our appalling road toll. Teachers hate it
for turning students into glassy-eyed no-hopers, parents hate it for
turning unreachable teenagers into ... well, more unreachable
teenagers; and young children growing up in tinny houses add
immeasurably to the workload of the police and social workers.

But the pragmatic in me thinks something lucrative and, dare I say
it, positive for New Zealand could be mined in marijuana. Don Brash
was halfway there before the last election, in attempting to approach
the issue like an adult (for which he got shot down in flames) - but
where he advocated decriminalising pot for personal use, I'm thinking
bigger, bolder.

What about the Government taking a (cannabis) leaf out of the
California story and granting permits to a set number of marijuana
growers throughout the country, who would sell it to licensed outlets
for use by those with a medical need for the drug (or those wanting a
bloody great high - either way), and steal a jump on the way the
world is inevitably going?

It's an industry that could create so much tax revenue, given its
inherent popularity; it would mean no digging up the Coromandel or
deep-sea drilling, for starters. Instead of losing whole generations
of wily entrepreneurs to this leafy green underworld, their business
acumen would be harnessed to produce a legal, safe(r) product - with
by-products like hemp and hydroponics technology creating still more industry.

The sector may even invigorate the NZX, if the American example is
anything to go by. In 1996 California passed the Compassionate Use
Act; 15 other states have since legalised the drug for medical use.
Sales of fully legal "medical" marijuana in California alone top
US$1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) annually, according to Mother Jones
magazine, which also sees a similarity between the dotcoms of the
early internet days and today's "potcoms" - "start-ups helmed by
young entrepreneurs with risky business plans [seeking] venture
capital and dream[ing] of stock offerings".

The similarities go further. While the dotcom bubble was precarious
and burst in spectacular fashion, California's largest cash crop -
worth about US$14 billion - is also fragile, subject to the
capriciousness of politicians. At any time, the US Federal Government
might try and over-ride California's liberal drug laws. But that
hasn't stopped young turks, "ganjapreneurs", and old hippies looking
to cash in, banking on the fact that softening attitudes to pot are a
reality - as is widespread use. Just like in this country, which can
offer the world clean, green New Zealand, or clean New Zealand green,
depending on which would bring in the most revenue.

As for me, I don't do marijuana, so I won't be contributing to the
four-wheel drives of tinny house-owners or the higher tax take of a
more liberal government.

I don't need to - if I want a free high, all I need to do is open my
windows and inhale.
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