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Legalising cannabis could save $400m: docs

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/07/2016
Switched on Gardener's owner was imprisoned for more than four years for supplying equipment for cannabis cultivation. © PhotoStock-Israel/Getty Images Switched on Gardener's owner was imprisoned for more than four years for supplying equipment for cannabis cultivation.

Decriminalising cannabis could save the government $400 million a year and even generate tax revenue, a Treasury report has revealed.

A report uncovered by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey has revealed the government could be making $150 million a year by legalising the drug for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Ms Grey uncovered the 2013 report this month while trying to work out the savings people could make taking medicinal cannabis instead of prescription drugs.

The document for an internal Treasury forum indicates reforming drug policies would save money, ease pressure on the justice system and result in fewer convictions for youth and Maori.

"We spend about $400 million per year enforcing prohibition, and we could generate $150 million a year in revenue from taxing cannabis," it says.

It was released by Finance Minister Bill English after an Official Information Act request, but he denied it is Treasury's official position.

"The document was not official advice or a recommendation from Treasury. It was a document prepared by a single staff member for an internal forum and did not come to me," Mr English said.

The report also suggests "palatable reforms" including swapping criminal drug penalties for civil penalties including rehabilitation while keeping drugs illegal.

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