Cannabis bill labouring under legislative laziness

Labour has made a mess (so far) of their attempt to appease people wanting cannabis for medicinal purposes.

John Roughan describes this as a symptom of legislative laziness in Two big concerns for returning PM Jacinda Ardern:

If maternity leave has given the Prime Minister any time to reflect on the team’s performance in her absence she might have returned with two big concerns. One is obviously the decline in business confidence, the other may not so obvious.

It is legislative laziness that ignores practical flaws in the policy behind it.

It was a weakness of the previous Labour Government and it has now appeared in this one, on the subject of legalising cannabis for medicinal use.

I don’t know whether Minister of Health David Clark has been lazy, but on this he has certainly been lax.

Labour mainly wants to be seen as compassionate to the terminally ill. Who doesn’t? But good government requires more than good intentions. The hard part is working out the practicalities of putting good intentions into effect.

The new Government put a bill before Parliament that would have allowed terminally ill people to possess and use a drug that would remain illegal for anybody else. Quite how the drug would be cultivated, manufactured and supplied only to the terminally ill were details that did not unduly concern Labour MPs on the select committee that would have let the bill proceed if Labour and the Greens had a majority.

Labour MPs on the medicinal cannabis select committee have published their view of the issues the committee considered and it shows Labour’s lack of intellectual rigour on subjects such as this. The word “compassion” features a lot.

Repeating ‘compassion’ ad nauseum does not make it a compassionate solution.

Labour simply proposed to provide a legal defence for people charged with possession if they were “terminally ill”. It would have been a defence lawyers’ picnic, probably invoked for growers and dealers too. Labour MPs did not sound much interested in the form of the products for medicinal use or their quality.

Their report declared, “The overall standard of cannabis products is not expected to match that of pharmaceutical grade products, e.g. manufacturers will not be required to provide clinical trial data. The setting of quality standards will be led by the Ministry of Health and will be informed by approaches taken in other jurisdictions, expert technical advice and stakeholders.” In short, “Whatever”.

So what was its purpose, other than to give Labour’s voters the impression the Government was doing something on this subject while, in fact, the difficult details it was ducking would very likely prove insurmountable.

Labour ministers and legislation advisers seemed unprepared for getting into Government, and they haven’t performed well since they took over last November.

Meanwhile, on medicinal cannabis it has been overtaken by the National MP Shane Reti who has drafted a bill resolving the practical details and has convinced his caucus to support it.

Reti’s bill would allow cannabis products currently available only on prescription to be available from pharmacies on presentation of a medical cannabis card issued by the patient’s doctor or nurse practitioner. A licence would be needed to cultivate or manufacture the products, which would not include cannabis in loose-leaf form.

Unlike Labour, Reti has done some hard work. He visited the US and researched what has worked with cannabis law reform.

Then he put together a bill that isn’t perfect – he had to compromise to get approval from the conservative National caucus – but it looks far better than Labour’s deficient attempt.

Labour’s Louisa Wall has been working on trying to make things happen, but she has never seemed to have much clout in Labour. She became a list MP in 2008 and has been an electorate MP (Manurewa) since 2011, but she is outside Cabinet well down the Labour ranks at 24. She is limited with Clark inn charge of health.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick has been working hard with all parties to try to get agreement on a sensible way forward.

It’s a shame that Labour’s legislative laziness, and their unwillingness to work things out with other parties, has made what should have been a straightforward compassionate consensus so hard to achieve.

Quiet performers and hard workers Swarbrick and Reti may be the key to getting something worthwhile into law,


Leave a comment


  1. NOEL

     /  4th August 2018

    Laziness. No procastination probably.
    Swarbucks offering was destined to be defeated when she demanded a right to grow.
    The only way forward will be to get on with thw recreational use referendum.

    • Gerrit

       /  4th August 2018

      A referendum is only going to kick the can down the road for Labour unless the referendum result is binding on the government to change the legislation.

      With Labour not going to make the results binding, the referendum is a pointless exercise in futility.

      Even if they were to make it binding, Labour could do a tardy “Brexit” like obfuscation process towards legalisation. A process that may not give the results many are looking for.

      • Gerrit

         /  4th August 2018

        Mind you if it came to a vote it could be NAT,ACT, NZF and the Greens voting against Labour.

        Who in NZF and Greens has the intestinal fortitude to vote that way?

        • Zedd

           /  4th August 2018

          All the parties have ‘made noises’ that they will listen to the ‘will of the people’ (Reeferendum); if they refuse to reform, if there is a clear majority (>67%) they do it at their own risk.. this has been going on toooo looong now :/

          BUT they should focus on getting the medicinal bill/reform sorted ASAP !!
          even if Natl are just ‘playing politics’ with it.. their bill could be years away (pvt. mbrs ballot) ?

      • NOEL

         /  4th August 2018

        I disagree. Binding or not it will give an indication if the promoters are right in their claims that a majority iare for decrimalisation.

  2. Ray

     /  4th August 2018

    You just have to wonder at what goes on in the deep bowels of the Labour caucus, Louisa Wall has had a serious win while in opposition, is doing good work with cannabis but of all experienced MPs was ignored while some seriously slackers got the nod.

    • She did a lot of cross party work on the marriage equality bill when in opposition.

      Perhaps that’s why she doesn’t get far in Labour, she seems prepared to work with anyone in Parliament on things that matter to her and her constituents.

    • J Bloggs

       /  4th August 2018

      When someone with as much experience and competence in getting legislation through as Louisa has is languishing on the back benches, it’s usually because they backed the losing side in a leadership battle. Louisa was a strong supporter of David Cunliffe back in the day, so maybe she’s still paying for that

  3. PartisanZ

     /  4th August 2018

    Yesterday many people were raving about complex, conspiratorial and malign things which MUST have caused the Southern & Molyneux cancellation … (but probably didn’t) …

    If ever there WAS complex, conspiratorial and malign things afoot it must surely be in the realm of cannabis law reform …

    At the very least it’s Winston Peters belatedly exercising his ‘bottom-line’ of “No” to reform, holding to ransom and jeopardizing his own coalition … [like he is with waka jumping] …

    It could be worse …

    It might be an amalgum [amalgun] of industries including ‘Crime & Punishment’ (Police/Courts/Corrections [includes Big Building] & maybe some lawyers?), Liquor, Big Pharma and elements of Medicine & Health, all with guns large and small, mortars and bazookas leveled at the government’s head … FIIRE!

    Since most of these malign elements are National supporters, this might explain why National did Fuck All about cannabis & drug law reform during their 9 year reign?

  4. Zedd

     /  4th August 2018

    maybe this issue was ‘rushed’ in order to get a bill, introduced in first 100-days.. BUT Natl ignored/denied this reform option for 9 looooong years & now are criticising Lab/NZF/Grn Govt. for the bill they DID put forward !

    Any changes has to be better than; Status quo or even disinfo. about ‘its all just excuses to legalise DOPE !’ which has been said by the right.. 😦

    “WAKE UP & smell the fresh herbs” 🙂

    • Zedd

       /  4th August 2018

      repeating some action over & over, expecting a different outcome; definition of.. INSANITY

      so why are some of our politicians (Right), effectively still doing this.. looking for excuses to continue with with status quo ? the WAR on weed..
      B-S is still B-S regardless of how you dress it up :/

    • alloytoo

       /  4th August 2018

      The poor quality of the Labour bill suggests they did even less than National on this issue during the 9 years, and certainly less than National since.

      • Zedd

         /  4th August 2018

        I agree.. they should have taken Greens bill up as ‘a Govt. bill’ but NZF would not support the ‘home grow’ part..

        btw; Natl are only now supporting Med-cannabis because they now see that about 90% support it in recent polls. Politics 101, politics 201.. politics 301

        They voted against all previous bills (Greens) to reform med-use.. B-S still smells; just as bad regardless.. :/


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