Saturday, 7 January 2012


A nation of hobbits likes its pipeweed. Radio NZ and The Press report on a survey published in The Lancet showing marijuana use in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) is well above international norms. Here's the relevant table from Lancet:

Clicking the image should provide the requisite embiggening. They figure 9.3% to 14.8% of folks in Australia and NZ have used marijuana in the last year while 2% to 2.8% have used amphetamines. The lower bound estimate on both for Australia/NZ is above the upper bound estimate for most other areas. This despite Australia and New Zealand both being islands in the middle of nowhere in the midst of a big useless anti-meth push that has had no effect on meth use but that keeps me from getting decent cold medicine when needed.

Keep digging up, guys. You're doing a heckuva job.

Or legalise marijuana and put it under the same regulatory apparatus as alcohol; make the whole deal politically palatable by taxing it sufficiently to keep retail prices close to where they are now. Turn the deadweight costs of prohibition into tax revenue.


  1. I'm trying to come up with reasons why our consumption of cannabis and amphetamines is so high here relative to the rest of the world. I can't believe it is because life is so unpleasant that we find it necessary to lose ourselves in a drug-induced funk. In fact I'd argue that we have it a hell of a lot better in NZ and Aus than in many parts of the world where usage is considerably lower. There may be cultural differences at play when it comes to ones drug of choice, but I'd have thought that we share similar cultural leanings with western Europe and to a lesser extent with North America. Interesting stuff.

  2. Someone told me a few years back that plenty of chinese students arrive in NZ with small quanitities of psuedoephidrine for resale onto the NZ black market. They don't bring much, but if you have plenty of students each bringing a small amt you still end up with the problem.

    Of course this raises the costs to customs of detection, prosecuting etc, so they didn't unless it was of value >$x.

  3. @Lats: One reason given in the pieces linked is that NZ and Oz have very similar, relatively high, levels of consumption where other regions have low-use countries whose usage brings down the regional average.

    @V: I always ask guests coming in from overseas to bring me the good cough medicine, especially for the kids. And every time, I curse Peter Dunne. Peter Dunne: I blame YOU every time I can't get medicine that works for my kids' colds.

  4. @Eric Yeah that goes some way to explaining our elevated average. I wonder also if recreational drug use might not be a middle-class thing? I can imagine that a really impoverished family might have more pressing concerns than when/where to get the next tinny.

    A question about cough medicine - are your international guests permitted to bring pseudoephedrine-containing meds into NZ? I would have thought the customs folk here would have been at least mildly unimpressed by such behaviour given how tightly controlled they are here now.

  5. You can bring stuff back for personal use.