In New Zealand, Cannabis Trumps Booze

NEW ZEALAND: Many New Zealanders are turning to cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, which might explain why we are among the highest users in the world, a medical anthropologist says.

According to the Ministry of Health’s most recent New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, one in seven New Zealand adults will have used cannabis in the past year.

The survey found 46.4 per cent of all adults had used cannabis in their lifetime.

That put New Zealand among the highest cannabis users in the world in the 2013 United Nations World Drug Report.

Medical anthropologist and research consultant Geoff Noller, who completed his doctoral thesis on cannabis use in New Zealand, says a major theme was people using cannabis instead of drinking alcohol.

He surveyed 80 people in Dunedin about their cannabis use.

“A lot of people in my study found they didn’t like alcohol, felt out of control when they had alcohol, so for a lot of the cannabis users, it was a way they could de-stress but remain in control.”

Cannabis was easy to grow in New Zealand, and this had led to the development of a “cannabis culture” – comparable to wine-tasting, Noller said.

“People like cannabis, they like growing it, and the gardening side. They enjoy the different varieties like a person who might enjoy different types of wine,” he said.

“There’s a real interest outside of simply getting high, there’s a whole culture around it.”

This year, and for the first time in New Zealand, Fairfax Media is partnering with the Global Drug Survey to help create the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of our drug and alcohol use, and to see how we compare to the rest of the world.

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