Cannabis deserves a decent debate

Don Brash has raised the decriminalisation of cannabis as an election issue, but it’s far more complex, and more important, than to rush policy in the heat of a campaign. Various issues around cannabis use – social, legal and medical – deserve decent public exposure and debate.

It would be a mistake to simply decriminalise cannabis and hope that the change will make things better. If the inevitable problems turn out to be greater than any benefits of giving people more free choice on use of drugs it would be difficult to undo.

The Act Party is deeply divided over Brash’s thoughts. The Green Party gives low-key support to relaxing drug laws. The rest of parliament does not support decriminalisation of cannabis and has no plans to change the status quo. The best way to test if this is the best stance or not is to examine it with informed debate.

There’s much more to the cannabis issue than giving a few recreational users the legal right to smoke as they please.

Kate K, who has just published a book called “Matters To A Head: Cannabis, mental illness & recovery” suggests on Dim-Post that “the decriminalisation argument is far less important to NZ than the real issue of providing and resourcing appropriate treatment and services to those who become unstuck by the drug.”

Russell Brown agrees and asks “this is actually the debate we should be having: how do we prevent early use of cannabis?”

Young people are much more susceptible to the adverse effects of drug use – it is unlikely there would be widespread support for unlimited use of cannabis for all ages. We need a process were we can debate and decide as a society what we want, and put that to the politicians.

I’m going to initiate more debate on cannabis. There are too many distractions for the rest of the year, so I propose planning this for next March, once the University year has restarted. In the meantime I will find what organisations and interest groups want to contribute information and want to participate in debate.

I will promote this debate on two levels, online and based publicly in Dunedin:

  • publish an initial discussion document
  • public meeting involving any interested legal, medical and social inputs, and local and national politicians
  • debate in local media
  • a possible organised public debate
  • utilise online media extensively for discussion and debate – this can extend nationally
  • close the debate period with a public meeting
  • poll or referendum on what the people of Dunedin prefer to be done, if anything

Other regions would be welcome to link in with this process.

Politicians will be involved as much as possible with the results. Ultinmately any action will be up to parliament, but this will provide a good indication of public preferences.

This will be a good test for establishing better ongoing community involvement in the social/political process.

Notes:

I am the UnitedFuture candidate for Dunedin North. These plans for cannabis debate will proceed regardless of the outcome in the electorate or via the list.

Current UnitedFuture policy includes “Oppose the decriminalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”

UnitedFuture party leader Peter Dunne has “no problem at all” with this debate proposal – the party encourages debate on issues as is open to alternate opinions.

My personal position is to support the status quo unless good evidence and informed public opinion supports change. I have never smoked cannabis, but I have inhaled party bong pong.

I don’t have a strong stance either way, I’m interested in helping determine what people want and supporting the popular view.

If anyone wants to join the planning of this debate please contact me at petedgeorge@gmail.com

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3 Comments

  1. Chris Scott

     /  27th September 2011

    A good initiative. I wrote to the PM this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

    …That is why I find it hard to understand why you refuse to rationally examine the current drug laws to assess their effectiveness in reducing harm in society.

    For instance, why was New Zealand’s cannabis use on a per capita basis for people aged 15 to 64, nearly *three times* that of the Netherlands in spite of the liberal Dutch drug laws? (wikipedia/ WHO stats) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annual_cannabis_use_by_country

    I believe drug abuse of any kind is harmful, and as it is such a contentious political issue, surely it makes sense to remove it from the political arena to be *rationally* assessed by an expert non-partisan body, the recommendations of which can be soberly assessed in spite of conservative howling.

    Reply
  2. nasska

     /  27th September 2011

    Good on you PG. NZ deserves better than having politicians ignoring calls for debate in the vain hope that by burying their heads in the sand the issue will somehow go away.

    That said, the electorate need to take up any opportunity to express their opinions either for or against. The opportunity is not going to present itself on a regular basis.

    Reply
  1. Cannabis debate in Dunedin | Your Dunedin

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