Dunne on cannabis legislation and referendum

Peter Dunne has his say on how best to organise a cannabis referendum (slightly edited):


Suggestions that the Government wants to bring forward the timing of the referendum on recreational cannabis make good political sense. The current plan to hold the referendum at the same time as the next General Election makes sense from a costs point of view, but has the potential to be a political disaster for all concerned. It would be inevitable in such circumstances that the election campaign would be dominated by the cannabis referendum, something none of the political parties would want.

Resolving the logistics of the timing of the referendum is but chickenfeed, compared to what the referendum will actually be about, and how, in the event of an affirmative vote, the outcome will be implemented.

Some form of independent, properly resourced, expert panel will obviously be required to ensure all the relevant information is put before voters in a credible and dispassionate way. Ideally, the panel should run for some time before the referendum to give as many people as possible the opportunity to interact with it. But this is not an impossible task.

The bigger issues relate to the type of regulatory regime proposed for cannabis, should the voters say yes. Ironically, the way we treat tobacco might be the way forward. Tobacco products are sold in a heavily regulated market, with no advertising or promotion permitted, and sales restricted to those over the age of 18, with heavy Government taxes applied. At the same time, the domestic cultivation of tobacco plants is permitted, but those plants can only be for personal use, and any form of supply to others is a criminal offence.

If the Government is thinking along these lines, then the referendum will need to be designed to reflect this, so the public can be absolutely clear what they are being asked to vote upon. If the Government has another regime in mind, then it will need to present that to the public with equal specificity.

The best way ahead for the Government would be to follow the example of the 1993 MMP referendum. In that case, the new regime was put in place by legislation passed by Parliament before the referendum, and which was only triggered by a positive vote in the referendum, meaning that MMP could be introduced for the 1996 election. Under a similar scenario, the new regulatory regime for recreational cannabis would come into effect once the referendum voted yes, taking the issue off the 2020 election agenda.

To get to this point, however, will require a great deal of very considered and precise work by the Ministries of Justice and Health, and a Bill to be in Parliament within the next three months or so, and passed by early next year, so that the regulatory regime and the public information panel can be established in time for a postal vote in – say – November, (bearing in mind that the August-October period will be dominated by the local body election campaign).

12 Comments

  1. Zedd

     /  May 24, 2018

    Dunne pushed the line, that ‘synthetic cannabis’ (not natural cannabis) was ‘low risk’ & that the natural herb was NOT. He has since backflipped & said that the natural herb, (Class C) should have been included in ‘his (flawed) psychoactive substance act’
    SO.. frankly I think his opinion is about as useful as ‘tits on a bull’ 😦

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  May 24, 2018

      I don’t suppose that he was referring to the version with weedkiller and who knows what else in it.

  2. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  May 24, 2018
  3. Reeferrendum Rabbit

     /  May 24, 2018

    Heavy taxation will keep the black market alive, underage sales active, gang activity funded, and non taxable incomes kept in the same hands as is currently established. FAIL again from Dunne.

    • Griff

       /  May 24, 2018

      Heavy taxation?

      As long as the retail price undercuts the present black market price.
      About 20 a gram or 300 an ounce. That is one or two grand a kilo.
      It would cost less than $100 a kilo to grow a reasonable grade .
      Enormous tax of 500% on legal growers paying for stringent quality and tracking along with quality retails overheads would still under cut the criminals .
      Who would go to a dodgy gangsta if ya could walk in into a well stocked well staffed retail store at around the same price ?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 24, 2018

        $20 a GRAM ?????

        $300 an OUNCE ???

        How much for a matchbox full now ?

      • Reeferrendum Rabbit

         /  May 24, 2018

        I reckon one could grow reasonable edible grade fields planted and harvested and dried and packaged all by machinery for about $500 a tonne. Its up there with corn and wheat really

        • Gezza

           /  May 24, 2018

          Way different to corn & wheat. Dunno how machinery would be able to pick & harvest heads & it’d be a helluva job keeping it clean of constant oil residue buildup I would think. Who’s harvesting it by machine at the moment?

      • Kevin

         /  May 25, 2018

        Plus you actually know what you’re getting. Who knows what dodgy dealers cut it with these days. I’ve heard they sometimes sprinkle meth on it to hook the punters. Don’t know how true that is though.

  4. PartisanZ

     /  May 24, 2018

    Dunne’s the expert on these things I guess …? How many times can you fuck it up and still be entitled to an opinion on the subject?

    “To get to this point, however, will require a great deal of very considered and precise work … and a Bill to be in Parliament within the next three months or so, and passed by early next year …” says he.

    Well, having arbitrarily separated ‘medicinal’ from ‘recreational’, they could have sent the Green’s Amendment Bill through to Select Committee. That would have been a marvellous foundation for sound ‘medicinal’ legislation including ‘home grown’ ….

    Once in place, this would nicely overlap with future ‘recreational’ legislation, which would only require half the “very considered and precise work” …

    Then, of course, there are the dozens of jurisdictions around the world who have already successfully legalized cannabis, from Portugal to the USA to Uruguay, who’s legislation we could easily copy the best parts of …

    So what are we going to do? Reinvent the wheel all over again …? I’d wager money that’s what we do!

    If Labour go ahead with Dunne’s plan before their dipstick Amendment Bill is enacted they’ll make a mockery of their own ‘Clayton’s’ Legislation …. That’s quite an accomplishment!

    The opportunity presented by Chloe Swarbrick’s Bill, overlooked by the out-of-touch Secular-Christian ‘Right Brigade’ Conservatives in National and NZFirst – along with some Labour members – is arguably this Parliament’s greatest failure so far …

  5. Kevin

     /  May 25, 2018

    Legalise it the same way as tobacco? I could go with that. Definitely cannabis should never be allowed to be advertised except for package branding. My preference would be to start with Dutch-style coffee-houses and then have another referendum a few years later asking if personal at-home-use should be legal.

    • PartisanZ

       /  May 25, 2018

      But Kevin, isn’t that just like saying “at home use shall remain illegal until another referendum”, while we test it out in coffee houses?

      Let’s just get it all over and Dunne with … including sufficient regulations … and including home grow in small quantities …

      If Portugal can do it like they have, surely we are capable of something as good or better?