Genter v Dunne on cannabis and drug law

Coincidental to Julie Anne Genter’s Medicinal Cannabis bill being drawn from the Members’ ballot – see  Medicinal Cannabis Bill  – she already had a question lined up in Parliament yesterday on drug and cannabis law.

This was targeting the Minister of Health (Jonathan Coleman) but for some odd reason was transferred to Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne.

Drugs, Illegal—Cannabis

7. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does he stand by his reported statements that the current drug law does not really work that well, and that cannabis should be regulated under the Psychoactive Substances Act; if not, why not?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): In short, yes. The Misuse of Drugs Act was passed in 1975, and as I noted a couple of years ago in the foreword to the Government’s National Drug Policy: “We also have to be prepared to challenge traditional approaches and ways of thinking about these issues. Innovation is essential in a world where new drugs are detected every week and the black market has gone digital.” I would point out to the member that one of the actions being taken this year as part of the National Drug Policy is a review of the offence and penalty provisions for personal possession, as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act. With regard to the psychoactive substances aspect of the question, that is a re-statement of a United Future position from as long ago as 2013. I accept it may not necessarily be the Government’s position.

Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that regulating cannabis under the Psychoactive Substances Act would be in line with the recommendations from the Law Commission on drug law reform?

Hon PETER DUNNE: From memory, the Law Commission’s recommendations were made prior to the passage of the Psychoactive Substances Act, but, in general, my understanding of its recommendations would see those align with the proposal I have advanced of regulating such substances under that Act.

Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that the evidence from overseas and in New Zealand suggests that regulating and treating drug use as a health issue is a far more effective way of minimising the harms associated with it than treating it as a criminal issue?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Yes, I can confirm that. Indeed, that has been the statement that the New Zealand Government has made to the United Nations every year for about the last decade. It is certainly consistent with the National Drug Policy, and it is the position that a majority of States around the world adopt these days.

Julie Anne Genter: Does the Associate Minister of Health believe that we have not been able to make progress on implementing the recommendations of the Law Commission—regulating cannabis as a health issue rather than treating it as a criminal issue—because the National Party is unwilling—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no responsibility at all from the Minister for the National Party. That question is not in order.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this chart from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of California, San Francisco, which shows that cannabis is far less harmful and has less addiction potential than a number of legal substances—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave—[Interruption] Order! It has been well described; I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular chart. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.


  1. Kevin

     /  June 9, 2017

    Why to people keep on insisting this is a health issue when the majority of people who use recreational drugs, including Class A drugs, have no problem and aren’t addicts? This makes it a justice issue because unless the police are only targeting those with a problem then most people who come before the courts on drug-possession charges do so for no good reason.

    Of course those that do have a problem cause a lot of harm which is the purpose of decriminalisation – target the abusers and leave the responsible users alone. Still a justice issue though.

    As for medicinal marijuana, my question is why? Totally unworkable and will just create another level of bureaucracy. I can just imagine Police 10-7, “Rangi has been caught in possession of a gram of cannabis but insists it’s for therapeutic use, is of medicinal grade, and has a note from his doctor. However considering the amount of alcohol he has consumed, police have their doubts ..”

    Regulate the stuff under a working Psychoactive Substances Act. In fact regulate all recreational drugs under the Act. Take recreational drugs out of the black market and minimise the harm caused by them.

  2. The real question is.. why are Natz totally opposed to any reforms ?

    these are ‘speculations’:
    1) 2-3 MPs are ex-cops & support prohibition only
    2) one MP is an ex-tobacco industry lobbyist & will not support cannabis
    3) They are promoting private prisons & the prohibition of drugs, is a major source of the ’employment’ & income

    Therefore it sounds like they are NOT actually about harm reduction, BUT status quo for the benefit of the ‘prohibition Industry’.. just speculating

  3. Transferred to Dunne as National don’t want talk about it. Cant admit the truth or scare their conservative support base, cand deny the truth or alienate those with all their faculties intact, and open them selves up for a stomping publicly.

    • too right Shane.. the whole issue is being avoided, by this Govt.. why ?
      what are they NOT telling us ??

      It will be interesting to see how they vote on the Greens new med-use bill. In 2009 the Natz voted ‘NO’ in a block, to stop it going to select committee. Killed the bill
      Totally opposite to the recent polls, that show about 80% do support law reform (not just imported sativex, unfunded by pharmac)

    • Kevin

       /  June 9, 2017

      Unfortunately drug reform is a poison chalice. I sincerely believe that there are not more than a few MPs in both National and the other parties who support major drug reform but do not want to risk being seen supporting it.

  1. Genter v Dunne on cannabis and drug law – NZ Conservative Coalition