The Vote viewers opt for decriminalisation
Viewers overwhelming voted yes to decriminalising soft drugs during TV3's national debate programme The Vote tonight.
The debate saw the "legal highs" industry controversially admit their synthetic products are more dangerous than ordinary cannabis and advise: "If you want to get rid of synthetic cannabis, the best way is to decriminalise natural cannabis."
The comments were made by industry representative Grant Hall during the debate.
Mr Hall was asked by referee Linda Clark: "Do you accept that natural, 100 percent cannabis is a safer product than the stuff you're peddling?"
"Yes I do," he said. "How big are the synthetic cannabis problems they have in California? None. What about Colorado? None. What about Washington? None. Do you know why? Because they decriminalised."
"King of legal highs" Matt Bowden also made an appearance on the programme, and revealed plans to manufacture a new range of synthetic legal highs.
"I'm setting up a new type of pharmaceutical company where we're going to be creating drug alternatives to draw people away from the more dangerous drugs like methamphetamine, your alcohol, your heroin – drugs which kill and are addictive," he said.
"We're going to look to develop safer drug alternatives, which are not addictive, won't kill people, don't cause brain damage, put them through proper safety testing. Then the money that comes into that pharmaceutical company will go into rehabs, further research and restoration technology to help people that have fried their brain a little bit on alcohol and other dangerous drugs – to help get their heads back together."
Drug use has become a hot topic in recent weeks, as communities from Timaru to Manurewa have picketed sellers of legal highs.
Some synthetic products have been banned by the Government. Select committee hearings into a new drug law have been taking place.
Police and medics have warned in recent days that harm caused by synthetics is demanding more of their attention.
But around the world the trend is to more liberal drug laws, treating drugs as a health issue rather than a criminal one. This month Colorado and Vermont have become the latest US states to liberalise their drug laws.
Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne said the Government has no intention to change the legal status of cannabis, and was focused on the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
Viewers voted overwhelming in favour of decriminalisation, with 72 percent voting yes and just 28 percent voting no.
Watch the video for the full results.