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White dope privilege leads to lack of sympathy

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The co-chair of an expert panel looking at cannabis law reform says legalisation offers a better chance of managing the negative effects of the drug.

Tracey McIntosh says the evidence shows Māori have borne the brunt of biased enforcement of cannabis laws, and are three times as likely to be changed and convicted.

She says misuse of cannabis can cause harm, but making it illegal can cause even more harm.

It also makes it harder to build up support for reform if those ill-effects aren't shared equally.

"Now for many, particularly non-Māori middle class, the issue of legalisation is not as pertinent to them because in many ways they can act as if legalisation has already happened. The possibility of them suffering a punitive response to cannabis use is very limited," she says.

Professor McIntosh says legalisation means there will be more rather than less regulation, but that regulation may be better targeted at addressing any physical and social harm from the drug.

The Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor's accessible evidence summary is here: Legalising cannabis: What does the evidence say?’ (

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