National “too scared” to address cannabis issues

Peter Dunne has said that National were ‘too scared” to address dysfunctional cannabis and drug laws – and Labour seem to be barely better.

It’s widely known that cannabis law (and drug laws generally) are not effective and create more problems than they solve. However successive governments have failed to deal with them.

As Associate Health Minister under the previous National led Government Peter Dunne bore the brunt of political criticism over cannabis and other drug law failures, but he has become increasingly critical of the role the National Party played.

Newshub:  National ‘too scared’ for cannabis reform while in Govt – Peter Dunne

Former leader of United Future, Peter Dunne has called out the National Party for only putting forward a medicinal cannabis bill once they were ‘in the safety’ of opposition.

“In government they were frankly too scared – they were really paranoid about the potential impact any change in this area…would have on their rural and provincial support base. They didn’t want to be seen as soft on these things. That was their prevailing mindset.

“I am frustrated that now they’re in the comfort of opposition, the impotence of opposition, they think this is a good course of action to take,” he told Newshub Nation on Friday.

I believe Dunne on this.

I was approached in 2011 to stand as a candidate for United Future. It was always going to be an extremely long shot, but it gave me a great perspective of politics and our democratic system.

One condition for standing was that if I won the equivalent of political lotto (the odds were probably greater) I would be able to promote cannabis law reform. Dunne was happy with this.

I had contact with him over the years, and he always expressed a willingness to try to deal with drug law issues, and he showed frustration that he was being limited by National.

Dunne was used by National as a scapegoat to take attention away from their own gutlessness in avoiding drug law reform.

Labour haven’t been much better. They effectively trashed Chlöe Swarbrick’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill when it went before Parliament earlier this year – see Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill fails at first reading.

Also Chloe Swarbrick: MPs out of touch over medicinal marijuana (RNZ are out of touch using the term marijuana):

During the first reading Ms Swarbrick told Parliament something had to change.

“You do not find a solution to a problem by beating it with a blunt and broken instrument.

“The law here is broken and good, kind otherwise law-abiding people are risking jail to help their neighbours and those in their community currently experiencing unnecessary suffering.”

Ms Swarbrick urged National MPs who wanted to support her bill to do so – despite the official party line being to oppose it.

“I would like to invite any National Party MPs who support this to stick their neck out and to be on the right side of history tonight – it will not pass without you votes.”

On Tuesday, National MP Chris Bishop said he would be backing the bill, but voted against it.

Nikki Kaye had been given dispensation to vote for it but also ended up opposing it.

Now Labour have put up their own inferior and flawed alternative.

National and NZ First were the main culprits in blocking this bill, but eight Labour MPs also voted against it. Parliament failed to reflect strong public opinion (in one poll 78%) who supported cannabis law reform.

Current Health Minister David Clark has taken the responsibility for medicinal cannabis law has failed to show leadership on this, as has Jacinda Ardern.

It reflects poorly on National and Labour that the most prominent champion of cannabis law reform is first term *and the youngest) MP Swarbrick to try to represent public wishes on this.


  1. Corky

     /  August 19, 2018

    National is too scared to implement many things. Pity Brash didn’t get a chance to make changes.

    • Voters were too scared to give Brash the chance.

      I held off voting for National in 2005, largely because of Brash.

      I voted for National (as much against a Clark Government past it’s use-by date), after Brash had stepped down.

      Incidentally, the current first term Labour led government is in danger of an earlier fate than the Clark/Cullen government for ignoring the effects of tax on middle income New Zealand (unless you qualify for hand outs for kids).

  2. robertguyton

     /  August 19, 2018

    Dunne’s full of it. He gleefully mocked the true drug law reformer, Nandor Tanczos for his supposed cannabis smoking activities, putting politics before necessary change and for him to be now dumping on National, despite them deserving it, is hypocritical in the extreme Imo.
    Nandor forced Dunne to admit to his own ‘dope smoking’ in the House, one of the few moments of divine justice I know of.

    • That was over ten years ago. A lot has happened since then – including a lack of effort by the Greens to promote drug law reform, until Chloe came along. I know that Kevin Hague tried to do what was possible under the circumstances, I talked to him about it.

      But overall the Greens have been disappointing until now on reform, less so than national and Labour and NZ First, but the lack of priority given to dealing with insidious drug problems and dysfunctional law related to cannabis use is a blot on all of past and present parliaments.

      Over the past decade Dunne did more than any MP to make progress, but not only lacked support, he was blocked.

      • Zedd

         /  August 19, 2018

        I am not condemning Dunne (totally) because even the greens kept saying ‘It is our policy.. BUT not a priority’ Now that JAG & Chloe have taken the issue up, it does appear to have moved onto their priority agenda 🙂

        Kevin Hague was trying to push it along, but sounded like he was just constantly frustrated by the lack of support from most of the parties, in the parliament.. prior to this new Govt.

    • PartisanZ

       /  August 19, 2018

      Top comment robertguyton …

    • Zedd

       /  August 19, 2018

      The noises that Dunne is making.. seems to be more about trying to justify his lack of action, by pushing the blame onto Natl, who clearly were anti-reform.

      Dunne said that ‘synthetics were low risk BUT natural cannabis was NOT’. (paraphrased) He now says that the herb should have been added to his ‘Psychoactive substance act’ & regulated, but at the time he totally avoided it.. maybe because Natl would not support it.

      It sounds like the recent polls; 87% support med-use & about 67% personal use is what is really driving this ‘new found support’ from Natl & Dunne ??

      • Dunne had one vote in a near single party government, so had very limited leverage. I know he supported doing more and tried to do more than he was allowed by Cabinet.

        • robertguyton

           /  August 19, 2018

          Dunne was in a position to broadcast a revisionary view on cannabis but he didn’t; he said the opposite, pushing reform back by years; he lacked spine.
          As an aside, The Standard is cranking this morning around the topic of alcohol consumption in New Zealand; Dunne’s culpable there to, I believe.

          • I think you are quite wrong here.

            The Greens are in a a position to broadcast a revisionary view on cannabis, and apart from Chloe have been quite disappointing, as they were in opposition.

            • robertguyton

               /  August 19, 2018

              Yes, The Greens appear to have put cannabis reform on the back-burner, believing it was hindering their chances of getting into Government. Their decision that recreational cannabis reform is lower on the list than some other Green objectives is probably fair; medicinal being a different kettle of fish. Really, Pete, The Greens, had they been supported by the other political parties, and the public, business et al would have reformed the cannabis laws long ago. No other political party would have or tried to, imo.

            • They have helped for sure, but too much lip service.

              And they were fairly weak in their negotiations with Labour. A referendum before or at the next election risks another three years of kicking the can (or should that be cannabis can’t) down the road for another three years.

              That could change, but there’s no obvious sign of any real intent by the Greens apart from Chloe’s efforts.

        • Zedd

           /  August 19, 2018


          I hear you.. but I also remember some of his comments about Synthetics; as per my other comments.. did he really think they are safer/lower risk than natural herb ?? 😦

          many recent deaths from this synthetic poison.. ZERO from the herb !

          • Synthetics are a wide range of concoctions.

            Dunne tried to put in place a way of dealing with synthetics that were sort of known – allowing for the use of those that could be proven to be relatively safe. But after media scare mongering National chickened out, which resulted in a diverse range of alternative synthetics coming on the black market with no way of knowing how unsafe they were. That is what led to the spate of deaths.

            • Zedd

               /  August 19, 2018

              again.. I hear you.. BUT he did say that ‘synthetics were lower risk than the natural herb’ which sent the wrong message (IMHO) to the public !

              I also know; that once they were pushed back onto the black-market, they became totally unregulated. The original ‘Kronic’ was supposedly ‘synthetic THC’ sprayed on ‘mixed herbs’.. the latest stuff reportedly has been found to contain FLYSPRAY (Blackflag) which is nothing like THC

              I also read that there is another one called AB-fubinaca (?) that is similar to Kronic, BUT is about 100% stronger & perhaps some people are overdosing after thinking it was much the same; similar to the opioid ‘Fentanyl’ which is creating havoc/many overdoses for a similar reason; much stronger/concentrated than heroin & other ‘street opiates’ etc.

              “Free the Weed (natural herb) & get rid of the CRAP” sez I&ai :/

            • “BUT he did say that ‘synthetics were lower risk than the natural herb’ ‘

              What did he actually say, and in what context?

              The whole problem with synthetics was their variety, and the lack of knowledge about their risks.

            • For some time now, Dunne’s been talking up the merits of Portugal’s drug laws, where every drug is decriminalised – albeit with a caveat: If you’re caught with less than 10 days of any drug – cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, or anything in between – you won’t be prosecuted. Instead, you’ll be fined or sent to treatment.

              Rather than creating a free-for-all, Portugal saw its people’s drug use slump: in the 1990s, one in every 100 people in Portugal was addicted to heroin; since then, overall drug use has dropped 75 per cent.

              Dunne wants to see that replicated in New Zealand.

              “I think the full Portuguese solution, personally, might be the way for us to go long term. That might be where we head,” he says.

              “The sky doesn’t fall in when you do a Portugal-style reform,” executive director Ross Bell says.

              “Decriminalise all drugs, stop it from being a law enforcement issue, make it a health issue and invest in health. We should be able to do this by 2020.”

              Bell agrees Dunne’s plan for cannabis “has a whole lot of merit”.

              “The classification of low-risk drugs like cannabis, with a real strong public health focus, I think, is an inevitability.”


            • The recent spate of synthetic cannabis hospitalisations – and what may be a possible death in Rotorua – could have been avoided if the Psychoactive Substances Act remained active.

              That’s the view of Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne.

              “Had the animal testing prohibition not come into force, I would say very definitely the recent adverse effects arising from these new psychoactive substances would have been avoided,” Dunne said.

              “However, there will always be those looking to make dirty money at the expense of those around them, especially in the case of drug manufacturers and dealers, regardless of legaility.”

              Dunne also rejected the argument that a change in the law over cannabis would end the synthetics black market.

              “The Government does not see the two issues as connected,” he said.

              “There is no evidence to suggest that trying to solve one drug issue by increasing access to another would be an affective approach.”


            • Zedd

               /  August 19, 2018

              “BUT he did say that ‘synthetics were lower risk than the natural herb’ ‘
              ‘What did he actually say, and in what context?’ sez PG

              as I said ‘paraphrased’.. but I do clearly remember him saying that: ‘many of the synthetics would pass the test for low risk BUT that natural cannabis would probably not.’
              I dont know what advice/info. he was basing this on ? BUT I think he was/is completely WRONG; Zero deaths from the Herb

              BUT I do agree that driving them all back to the black-market has only made things much worse !!

              “Kati, Heoi Ano”…. (enuf sed) :/

          • What Dunne tried to do was applauded internationally as an innovative approach. He managed to achieve that despite National’s gutlessness, but the chickened out when there was some bad media coverage.

            • robertguyton

               /  August 19, 2018

              He failed and made things worse. Still, his condemnation now, of the National Party, is some help.

            • He didn’t make things worse. Parliament and the media have allowed things to keep deteriorating for many years. If drug law had been dealt with in a timely way the medicinal cannabis issue would never have arisen, and synthetic drugs would not have become established as an alternative to weasel around the crappy laws.

          • Griff.

             /  August 19, 2018

            National refused to even look at cannabis law.
            I believe Dunne would have legalized or at lest decriminalized Cannabis.
            Such reform was never on the table.
            The same goes for safer synthetics
            The original k9 was already illegal . National would not allow any reform or change to existing drug laws so it could not be legalized.
            Under MMP the power of a small party is not enough to railroad though ideas that the major party will not except.
            It is quite perverse that National now wants to look at the question after years of refusals to even consider change to the war on drugs mindset.

  3. PartisanZ

     /  August 19, 2018

    “I am frustrated that now they’re in the comfort of opposition, the impotence of opposition, they think this is a good course of action to take,” Peter Dunne told Newshub Nation on Friday.

    That’s a very thin skin on the spin …

    National were already in Opposition when they voted against Chloe Swarbrick’s Greens MoD Amendment Bill, so clearly something else has changed …

    What could it possibly be?

    In National’s case, it can actually only be ONE thing … Corporate-Political elites [save possibly Liquor & Tobacco?] have decided there’s a growing and potentially enormous future global market in medicinal cannabis … provided it’s pharmacueticalized … [in other words its got nothing whatsoever to do with Suffering or Justice]

    Liquor & Baccy will probably [magically] come on board when so-called ‘recreational’ cannabis is finally tackled, I estimate in the late-2020s or early 30s … [This is likely to still result in “No Home Grow” …

    I hope I’m alive to check the results of my wager that Liquor & Tobacco corporations and outlets [by then operating in a declining Liquor acceptance and near defunct Tobacco environment?] will become the manufacturers & retail outlets for heavily regulated, standardized and, I dare say, additive-rich Recreational Cannabis …?

    • robertguyton

       /  August 19, 2018

      Dead right, PartizanZ; big business and their mouthpiece, the National Party, only shift ideologies when they’ve got in place the mechanisms for exploiting those changes in order to make a buck (BIG).

      • Zedd

         /  August 19, 2018

        YES.. the old saying; ‘If you really want to know why things happen (politics).. Follow the MONEY !’
        eg. political donations/lobbyists etc.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  August 19, 2018

          Lobbying in NZ is NOT the same as it is in the US, nor are political donations bribes here, contrary to what some people think.

          People see the US versions and think that that happens here, too, I think. We don’t have professional lobbyists. Anyone can lobby here.

          • Zedd

             /  August 19, 2018

            maybe so kitty.. but Im certain it does happen in Aotearoa/NZ at some level; C Bishop (Natl MP) has been widely called ‘ex-tobacco industry lobbyist’ & many Lab. MPs are labeled ‘union mouthpieces/lobbyists’ too etc :/

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  August 19, 2018

              There’s a huge difference between open lobbying and bribery.

            • Zedd

               /  August 19, 2018

              ‘There’s a huge difference between open lobbying and bribery.’ sez kitty

              I agree.. I did not mention bribery though, I said: ‘Donations’ :/

          • Griff.

             /  August 19, 2018

            Horse racing….NZ first
            Fisheries ….NZ First
            Property speculation …,National.

  4. NOEL

     /  August 19, 2018

    Not to worry the referendum isn’t far away.

    • Zedd

       /  August 19, 2018

      true.. but it aint over.. til its over.. ‘dont count your chickens’

      beware the big A word; APATHY… or the the ‘big C word’ ; Cynical !!

  5. duperez

     /  August 19, 2018

    National too scared? And with the euthanasia issue as well?
    If some the supporters are correct, were correct, that John Key was a ‘great leader’, where do those fit into the judgement of inspired leadership, of brave leadership, of truly meaningful leadership??

    • Gezza

       /  August 19, 2018

      Well at least we got a new flag ! 😎

      • Gezza

         /  August 19, 2018

        🤔 No … wait … we didn’t – it’s still this one 🇳🇿 😕

        • Gezza

           /  August 19, 2018

          Well at least he solved the housing crisis ! 🏡 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 😀 👍🏼

          • Gezza

             /  August 19, 2018

            🤔 No … wait … 🚕 🚶🏻👫👫 He didn’t ! 😠

  6. oldlaker

     /  August 19, 2018

    What are we to make of Bridges saying he’d legalise recreational cannabis (and euthanasia) if referendums were in favour?

  1. National “too scared” to address cannabis issues — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition