Unfortunately here in Aotearoa, we have a serious problem with child abuse. According to a a 2012 report prepared for the Ministry of Health, approximately one child a day was admitted to hospital with injuries relating to assault, neglect or maltreatment. Sadly these figures appear to have increased over recent years.

With this in mind it is understandable many people are worried about the effects legalising cannabis may have on child abuse, particularly neglect. Though there have been many child homicides linked to the use of alcohol or drugs such as methamphetamine and synthetics, there has been no link between the use of cannabis by itself, and child abuse. When cannabis has been involved in these cases it is almost always secondary to other substances like alcohol.

 Legalising cannabis will mean that those who do want to use it on a recreational basis will have a safe and accessible way to get it. It will also people will no longer be prosecuted for using a substance that is relatively harmless. It’s pretty hard not to neglect your children from jail!

 Samantha, 32 told us about her experience growing up with heavy alcohol users as compared to cannabis smokers:

 As a child my parents separated when I was young. I grew up with my mother who developed a heavy dependency on alcohol, and became a daily drinker along with her partner. I regularly visited my father and eventually moved in with him. He was a regular cannabis user and had a joint most days with dinner, and only drank occasionally.

Living with alcoholic parents was extremely volatile and unpredictable. I never knew what mood they would be when I came home. Whether they would be in a happy drunk mood, or angry, smashing dishes and yelling at each other. If they had too much alcohol, sometimes they would pass out in the afternoon or evening and leave us kids to our own devices. A lot of money went on booze, and they were often too drunk to cook or anything else, so we mainly lived off sandwiches, noodles and fried food and we didn’t do any extra curricular activities.

When I lived with my dad it was a much calmer environment. Although he used cannabis almost daily, it didn’t interfere with what he had to do during the day, including taking care of his children. He would often be a bit spaced out in the evenings, and that’s it. I remember him having legal troubles due to growing plants for his personal use.

As an adult I smoke rarely but I support the legalisation of cannabis, because I don’t think people like my father should be prosecuted for something that is usually pretty harmless.

Guest Blog by Angelina Stanton