by ESME O’RAFFERTY
A Catholic secondary school headmaster has come out swinging against the cannabis (marijuana) referendum due to be held at the 2020 General
St Paul’s College, Ponsonby, headmaster Kieran Fouhy said that legalising cannabis, when New Zealand already has an issue with alcohol, is just asking for trouble.
In a school newsletter sent out in May, Mr Fouhy said that the drug “does
not mix with learning” and the Government should rethink its stance.
“It will have a huge impact on young people, on schools’ ability to ensure
future learning occurs and on the future of peoples’ lives,” he said.
“No amount of political persuasion will convince me that legalisation of
marijuana is good for New Zealand .
“The reality is that our young men are already exposed to many things that can destroy their community and sense of self . . . why introduce another drug into the mix?”
Mr Fouhy said that he intended to “become political” on the matter and he encouraged parents to do the same.
He told NZ Catholic: “I would make sure that everyone knew my opinion, as an educator, that this is the wrong approach.”
“In my view, it’s in no one’s interests. I wouldn’t go away and march in the street, but I would use my influence [to stop legalisation].”
His main concern was that, despite the Government’s intention to restrict use of cannabis to those aged 20 and over, younger people would be able to access it from older family and friends.
“When you legalise it, you normalise it. There’s lack of clarity around it,” he told NZ Catholic.
“If you’ve got a family who are smoking for breakfast, that kid is growing up smoking it for breakfast.”
Mr Fouhy said that good law would stop people from using the drug, rather than legalisation.
“I find it actually quite strange we’re discouraging smoking, yet we’re encouraging marijuana use,” Mr Fouhy said.
National’s Simon Bridges has said his party would “respect” the referendum results, but added that he has many questions about the referendum and how it would work.
The draft legislation upon which voters will be asked to say “yes” or “no” would provide for a minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis. It would legalise recreational cannabis being bought from licensed and registered retailers and being used on licensed premises or private property.
Private cultivation would be regulated and advertising banned. There will also be a public education programme.
The referendum is a commitment in the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement, as well as a longstanding commitment from New Zealand First to hold a referendum on the issue.
Justice Minister Andrew Little said last month that the Coalition Government was committed to a health based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals.
“The voters’ choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed
to abide by the outcome,” he said.
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said that the aim of legalising cannabis was not to increase access, but rather to regulate
Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking invited Ms Swarbrick onto his programme in June to discuss the issue, where he
called her “naïve”.
Mr Fouhy told NZ Catholic he agreed with Mr Hosking.
“I reckon it’s naïve political judgement on her part . . . she has no experience of families who have had a son or a daughter on marijuana and would do everything in their power to escape that,” he said.
In the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ 2017 Election Statement, the bishops said that moves to legalise “soft” drugs are a “deeply cynical and cheap way of side-lining a complex social ill”.
“We want children and mokopuna to grow up in a safe society,” the bishops said. “This curse needs to be tackled full