For better or worse, New Zealanders have cast their votes in a referendum in favour of assisted dying for terminally ill people, but not in favour of legalising recreational marijuana use. There’s a lot of upset people around right now. The ‘yes’ voters for recreational marijuana use are mightily pissed off with the ‘no’ voters, and the ‘no’ voters for assisted dying are mightily pissed off with the ‘yes’ voters. In other words, situation normal.
I voted ‘yes’ for assisted dying, because I can see that I might possibly want that sometime in the future, although it’s not just the elderly who will benefit from it, so there was a humane element to my vote, as well. I surprised myself, however, by having a last minute change of mind and voting ‘no’ to recreational marijuana use. Having been a recreational toker in my youth, I always though that voting ‘yes’ to legalising it was a no-brainer for me. I do like how we can keep on surprising ourselves, and those around us, right us to the time we (assisted) die.
Two things changed my mind about the recreational marijuana use, and I’m not saying that I’m right or wrong with them, because I don’t know if I’ll ever really decide on that. The first hesitation came about upon chatting to the young Polynesian man who came to change the filter on my home HRV system. He asked me what I thought about legalising marijuana for recreational use, and I blithely said that I was going to vote in favour of it. At that time it was true, and anticipated earning myself some ‘cool’ points from this young Polynesian man. I waited to see the admiration in eyes for this older whitey person being down there with the kids. However, he screwed up his face a little, and then said he didn’t think he would be voting ‘yes’. So much for getting ‘cool’ points. Upon further discussion, he revealed that he’d seen too much drug abuse amongst his wider family and community, and didn’t want to make it easier. That was the first pause in my conviction, although it didn’t press the stop button.
The next pause came when I read an article in the weekly magazine, The Listener, which generally has good journalism. The article, titled Smoke Signals, gave the pros and cons of legislation. It didn’t really sway me one way or the other right then, although I was interested to read that research suggests that compounds in marijuana may be useful in delaying the onset of dementia. Now, it might be starting to sound that I’m taking this getting older business a bit seriously, but in reality I haven’t got too much to worry about right now. Perhaps that’s helped along by my vegan diet, perhaps I’m lucky, or perhaps it’s a combo of both. However, I looked after my elderly parents for eight years, and I’m aware that real old age does come to us all eventually – if we’re fortunate – and not thinking about it doesn’t stop it.
The Listener article was a good read. It gave me a different perspective from it, as did my young HRV man. As is always the case, there’s more to the matter than my casual “what’s the big deal” attitude. I won’t go into what the article said, because it’s a fairly long read (12 mins), and the links to it are above and below if you want to read it for yourself. I still didn’t know which way I was going to vote, though, until my pen ticked the ‘No’ option in the voting booth. I’m pretty sure there will be at least one person, whom I know well but who shall remain nameless, who will have something to say to me about that if they find out.
When I heard the results of the referendums, my first thought was that it was probably older people who voted for assisted dying, and against marijuana use. However, the sad fact is that cannabis use here in NZ is most widespread in areas of deprivation, and Maori – 16% of the total population – consume nearly a quarter of it. And I wondered if there were more Maori and Polynesian than we may think, who, tired of seeing what drug abuse is doing to their people, also voted against it.
I still don’t know whether legalising recreational marijuana use is a good, bad or indifferent thing. Either way, it won’t affect me directly, so from that point of view I don’t care too much. I’ve heard the arguments from both camps, but in the end I just don’t know enough about the wider social ramifications. That’s why I voted ‘no’ – but I’m not saying that I’m either right or wrong to have done so.
The Listener article ‘Smoke Signal’ https://www.scribd.com/article/479209436/Smoke-Signals
Header pic by Michael Fischer https://www.pexels.com/@mfi97