Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

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  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  5th May 2019

    Given Labour’s track record, there seems no reason to think that they will succeed with this one – especially if Winston Peters stuffs it up at the last minute just because he can.

  2. The media release on Scoop and also on the National party website are both dated 5 May, but they could have always been correct (and the media release emailed out incorrect), or they could have been corrected.

  3. The big question; Why are Natl refusing to join the ‘cross party working group’ unless they are, really still pushing the Prohibitionist/status quo message.. read between the lines.

    Even the recent Fam1st poll, showed only 7% still support ‘status quo’, so what is their real agenda ?
    Sounds like.. majority in Natl still do support “Lock ’em all up !!” (even for Cannabis) ??

    • Gerrit

       /  5th May 2019

      No note at all; there are votes to be garnered from those who see the whole referendum as a sop.

      Most want deregulation but at the same time want to see what harm reduction processes are put in place BEFORE deregulation.

      A lesson from the Portuguese drug reforms was absolute; one must have the support programs in place before the deregulation.

      I would say that those mental health programs are no where near in place in New Zealand and as a such the referendum is bound to fail.

      Hence Nationals is backing the no vote on the referendum.

      Labour needs to put the proposed outlines and budget off the harm reduction mental health programs structure in place before the referendum.

      • so are you saying that Prohibition is working to reduce harm ?

        there seems to be a misconception that ‘relaxing cannabis laws’ will massively increase use levels & the harm.

        I was in Amsterdam once & was told that when they changed there laws (1978), there was a spike for a while, but it actually dropped back & now is lower than before, as the ‘novelty of forbidden fruit’ wore off. I also hear that other countries: Canada, USA, EU etc. are experiencing similar trends

        The FEAR-mongering from Natl. is frankly pathetic ! (IMHO)

        • btw: If relaxing cannabis laws is ‘so scary’ you would expect them to try & ‘stuff the genie back in the bottle’ in these other countries… BUT I dont hear it happening, in fact more USA states are talking of following the trend set by: Colorado, Washington, California etc. & Canada too

        • Duker

           /  5th May 2019

          Cannabis use isn’t legal in Ntherlands…they just use a look the other way policy in about half of the the town’s and cities….. Surely you knew that

          • Yes they have a policy of ‘turn a blind eye.. if you otherwise behave’; Eff. ‘decrim.’ BUT it is legal to purchase (in some coffeeshops) & use it in private.. so the ‘novelty of forbidden fruit’ has definitely worn off, use rates have dropped to lower than many other countries, where it is still ‘illegal’ inc. Aotearoa/NZ

            When I went to a few coffeeshops, I was told clearly that ‘most dutch do not bother with it’.. most of their customers are Foreign Tourists, who cant do likewise, back home 🙂

            • Duke

               /  6th May 2019

              So you want the Dutch model for NZ …since you were waxing about how good it is.
              Use rates have dropped ? – You would say that but you only have eyes for data that confirms your bias.
              “most of their customers are Foreign Tourists- ” Then why allow it and only allow Dutch – but that didnt go anywhere for ‘reaons’
              Likely that isnt really true either.

      • Duker

         /  5th May 2019

        How can we have mental health programs for something that isn’t harmful…and mental health voluntary programs that require a lot of time and effort from the addicts to have a chance to work through multiple relapses. Instead let’s just ……

  4. Reply
  1. Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’ — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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