Peters: Let the Public Decide on Pot

On Monday, we discussed the topic of cannabis…and how the eventuality of decriminalisation could trigger a massive industry boom.

To be clear, we’re not arguing about the ethical or moral nature of cannabis. We’re just forecasting that it’s going to explode at some point…and smart investors may want to profit from it.

Plus, you don’t need to necessarily be a consumer to be an investor.

You may not drink milk, but you might be invested in A2 Milk [NZE:ATM].

You may not be retired, but you might invest in Ryman Healthcare [NZE:RYM].

If you only consider investing in companies that you patronise, then you could be severely limiting your portfolio and gains.

 

The people are on board…are you?

Regardless of your opinion on cannabis, you have to admit that our timing was impeccable.

Less than 24 hours after our article published, Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters came out in favour of a referendum on cannabis decriminalisation.

Well, if it’s left to the public, you could very well see cannabis — especially medical cannabis — being decriminalised or legalised in the coming years.

Here’s what the most recent poll numbers look like for New Zealanders:

Source: Curia Market Research

[Click to open new window]

While the Bob Marley T-shirt is a bit distracting, the point is clear — Kiwi support for cannabis is growing rapidly. Just look how steep those trends are.

If a referendum were to happen, it would likely occur a year or so from now. By then, who knows how much greater public support would be.

It’s a mistake to assume that this is an issue that only concerns young people. It’s not. There’s a growing user base in the elderly demographic. Many older users find cannabis products, particularly oils, as useful treatments for chronic pain or spastic disorders. [openx slug=inpost]

 

Understanding the argument

Now to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I’ll be quick to acknowledge that there’s not much scientific evidence to support whether or not cannabis is an effective treatment.

Your average GP won’t come out and prescribe it. They’ll follow the general medical party line against pot.

And personally, I might be okay with that.

Would you want your doctor recommending medicines to you that haven’t been fully vetted or backed with scientific evidence?

It wouldn’t be a far drop from falling into the world of snake oil and miracle drugs.

On the other hand, I do find issue with the government preventing folks from having access. Even if a GP recommends aspirin over marijuana 99 times out of 100, shouldn’t that one person have the choice to try a different solution?

And in my journey to better understand New Zealand’s attitude towards cannabis, I’ve found that argument to be the most prevalent. People don’t care if cannabis becomes popular, or cheap, or even widely accepted — they just want it to be available to those that could benefit from it.

That’s certainly the theme of a documentary I’ve been watching called In Pot Pursuit.. The documentary, created by Attitude, is one of many that they’ve released which focuses on mental and physical afflictions that Kiwis face.

In the documentary, they interview several sufferers of painful disorders like epilepsy who have found cannabis to work when other mainstream medicines didn’t.

One woman, paralysed from the waist down, endured excruciating spasms in her legs that made her life incredibly difficult. She had been prescribed the drug cocktail you might expect — a variety of opioids like Tramadol or Fentanyl — but without much success.

To her dismay, when she requested ministerial authorisation to order a cannabis-related product, she was not approved.

What blows my mind is that the Ministry of Health won’t allow patients access to cannabis products, but will readily authorise prescriptions for Fentanyl, which if you aren’t familiar, is a pain drug that’s claimed to be 50 times more powerful than heroin.

It simply doesn’t add up…until you consider the ‘Shirky Principle’.

 

The Shirky Principle

This principle is the idea that institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

It’s a profound concept and one that heavily affects big government and big pharma.

They’ll do anything they can to keep their job security.

I once had an employee that really embodied the Shirky Principle. He was our tech guy. He handled any issues we had with our computer hardware and software.

We were using outdated systems at the time and they constantly caused problems, so we were regularly calling on our tech guy to come and help. Like clockwork, he’d spend 15 minutes on our computer and would let us know that he’d fixed the issue.

As good as new…

Until the next week, when it would break down again.

Maybe you know someone like this…

Anyways, he eventually left for another job and we hired a new kid to take his place. The kid was smart and helpful.

One day, he came into our office scratching his head. He said, ‘Did you know you’ve been using [XYZ] system 1.0?

Yes…unfortunately.

Well, you’re still using the really buggy version released, like, five years ago. That company has since released several patches that fixed those problems. It’s free. Just gotta download it. Here – it takes two minutes.’

Sure enough, with a click or two, our problems were solved.

Our last tech guy had preserved the problem by not downloading the patch…and had therefore purchased a little job security by being the only solution.

It’s not that different from what big pharma could be doing. Suppress new solutions so people have to get their solution from you. The Shirky Principle.

Now, I don’t know if that’s what’s keeping cannabis from going mainstream in New Zealand, but the fact is that our country is lagging behind, and it’s not due to public support.

What else could it be?

Send me your opinion. Help me understand where New Zealanders stand on this issue. Email me at [email protected].

Sincerely,
Taylor Kee

Editor, Money Morning New Zealand


Taylor Kee is the lead Editor at Money Morning NZ. With a background in the financial publishing industry, Taylor knows how simple, yet difficult investing can be. He has worked with a range of assets classes, and with some of the world’s most thought-provoking financial writers, including Bill Bonner, Dan Denning, Doug Casey, and more. But he’s found his niche in macroeconomics and the excitement of technology investments. And Taylor is looking forward to the opportunity to share his thoughts on where New Zealand’s economy is going next and the opportunities it presents. Taylor shares these ideas with Money Morning NZ readers each day.


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