Cannabis use in New Zealand is common. In 2012 the Ministry of Health found that 11% of New Zealander’s had used cannabis in the last 12 months, that equates to around 600000 people.
If we sent every regular user of Cannabis to prison we would need to build 600 more Mount Eden sized prisons to cope with the increase in prisoner numbers.
A 1000 person prison would cost perhaps a $1b to build. A new 600 bed prison was planned for the Waikato at cost of $750m.
New Zealand doesn’t have that kind of money. New Zealand reports a Gross Domestic Product of only $300b. We could borrow $600b, if we increase our national debt by a factor of 10. Currently our national debt is $57b.
The cost of building the prison is only the start. It costs around $100k a year to house a prisoner in New Zealand. We would need to borrow $55b a year to keep us all locked up.
The government has stated they wish to reduce the prison population. Legalising Cannabis would be a good quick place to start.