Horizon poll: Small majority support cannabis legislation

A Horizon Research poll of 1593 respondents asked if they would vote yes for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in a non-binding referendum, which will be held alongside the general election.

  • Yes 56%

There is small change in favour of the legislation since a previous poll in February where 54% said Yes, but both are up a lot from an August 2019 poll that had just 39% in support.

I can’t find the results on the Horizon website, this is from an NZ herald report – Growing majority of Kiwis support legalising cannabis, new poll finds – that doesn’t give numbers for No or Don’t Know/Undecided.

Gender in favour:

  • Female 59%
  • Male 52%

By party supporters in favour:

  • Greens 81%
  • Labour 72%
  • ACT 70%
  • NZ First 53%
  • National 38%

The age group most in favour of legalising cannabis was 25-34 years: 72%.
Least in favour were those over 75 years:  27%.

There’s no real surprises in these results.

Respondents to the latest survey came from Horizon’s nationwide research panels and represent the adult population of the 2018 Census with results weighted by factors including age, gender, income and party voted for at the last election. The maximum margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

This poll suggests a leaning towards support of the cannabis legislation but it isn’t a big majority.

 


About the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The proposed Bill sets out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. This regulatory model covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis.

The Bill’s main purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities.The Bill legalises restricted access to cannabis

The Bill would allow people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day only from licensed outlets
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis on private property or at a licensed premise
  • grow up to 2 plants, with a maximum of 4 plants per household
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.The Bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities

The Bill intends to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities by:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair.

The Bill controls the production and supply of cannabis

The Bill would regulate how cannabis is produced and supplied by:

  • limiting the total amount of licensed cannabis for sale
  • controlling the potency and contents of licensed cannabis and cannabis products
  • applying an excise tax when a product is packaged and labelled for sale
  • setting up a licensing system under which all cannabis-related businesses must hold a licence
  • regulating location and trading hours for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed, in consultation with local communities
  • banning people from importing cannabis and allowing only licensed businesses to import cannabis seeds
  • separating businesses that are licensed to grow cannabis and produce cannabis products from businesses that are licensed to operate premises where cannabis can be sold and consumed.

What’s not included in this referendum?

The proposed Bill does not cover medicinal cannabis, hemp, driving while impaired, or workplace health and safety issues. These are covered by existing laws.

Medicinal cannabis is already legal under the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.

 Learn about medicinal cannabis at health.govt.nz 

Cannabis referendum could be ignored or low priority by incoming Government

We get to vote on the cannabis legislation that allows for recreational for those 20 or older bit with strict controls.

But will the next Government honour the result if a majority vote in favour? There’s no guarantee of that as it is not a binding referendum.

The cannabis reform bill got this far due to a governing agreement between Greens and Labour at the Green Party’s request. The Greens have not had a strong influence in Government (they operate outside Cabinet) and the Bill is quite conservative.

And it could still be ignored or put on the back burner. At best it could take a year or two to happen, depending on what priority the Government gives it in the next term.

If Greens don’t make the threshold, or just get in again with a small number of MPs, or are rejected by Labour in the next governing arrangement (NZ First may make a condition of support being that Greens are left out), then Greens may have little or no say.

NZ First + Labour may not honour the referendum result, but that would be a ridiculous stance for NZ First given their insistence on referendums to let the people decide.

If National lead the next Government they may ignore the will of the people, they have been very conservative on cannabis reform.

But a possibility that should not be ignored is if Act get a few seats and enable National to govern – they may insist on change.

Peter Dunne discusses these issues except the last point (Newsroom):  Cannabis questions dropped in too hard basket?

Given that the moves towards freeing up the recreational cannabis market were primarily Green Party initiatives that neither Labour nor especially New Zealand First were all that keen about, the proposal that has now emerged hangs together reasonably well. It is an improvement on the current de facto situation, and for that reason alone is worth supporting in the referendum.

However, possibly reflecting the awkwardness of its development, it is far from perfect, with a significant number of issues either apparently unresolved, or seemingly parked in a very deep too hard basket.

What happens if the referendum supports change?

The present Government has made it clear that while it will not regard the outcome as binding, it will undertake to introduce reform legislation at some unspecified time during the next Parliamentary term.

There is no guarantee within that commitment that any such legislation will mirror the referendum proposals or that the Labour Party will even support it beyond its introduction stage. If, for example, the Greens have less influence in the next government, what influence will that have on the shape of legislation? Conversely, if the next government is more reliant on New Zealand First, what assurance is there that a Bill will even make it to the introduction stage?

Should the National Party lead the next government, the prospects for any form of legislative change following on from a positive referendum vote seem pretty low, based on statements to date from its various spokespeople.

They reinforce my own experience working as Associate Health Minister responsible for drug policy, in the last National-led government where National was extraordinarily wary of any changes to drug laws.

How long it will take to pass such legislation?

Typically, a Bill of this type takes between six and nine months to pass through all its stages in the House, including the select committee process and the hearing of public submissions.

Even if such a Bill were to be introduced early in the life of the next government, it would most probably be the latter half of 2021 at the absolute earliest before it would be passed by Parliament. Again, typically, allowing time of say two to three months as a minimum for the development and implementation of the regulatory regime to follow, it would most likely be late next year at the earliest before recreational cannabis could be legally available.

So if the law change is supported will people wait until it actually becomes law? If not, how will the Police deal with it?

In the meantime, assuming a vote for change, there will be a strong public feeling that having voted for change it should be permissible to use cannabis recreationally immediately.

That would put the police in a very awkward position. Would they be quietly encouraged to go lightly on the current law, because it is about to change, which would be a very dangerous precedent, or would they be expected to keep enforcing a law that everyone knows is about to be overturned?

Either way, their position is invidious, and does not appear to have given been sufficient consideration. Certainly, to date, the Government has given no indication of its thinking on this point, which is not helpful.

Maybe they haven’t thought about it. The Greens should be making sure the Government does think ahead on this.

Presumably, the police would be expected to enforce these new restrictions vigorously, otherwise they are pointless. But enforcement of this type would lead to more people coming before the Courts for diversion, a fine, community service, or even possible imprisonment.

However, the current law on illegal use has been barely enforced by the police for years now, so it is an open question whether they would be any more diligent in enforcing any new, tighter law. And if they are not going to do so, what is the point of making the law tougher?

Current policing attitudes notwithstanding, one of the strongest criticisms over the years from cannabis reform advocates has been of what they have seen as the clogging of the Courts from cannabis prosecutions and the consequent labelling for life of many people with criminal records as drug offenders.

Yet under the new regime, this could potentially intensify, making the situation much less satisfactory than at present.

An unintended consequence could be more arrests and convictions.

All this could be rendered moot if the majority vote against change.

If a small majority vote for change it may give National or NZ First (or Labour without the Greens) to drag it out over years, or ignore it altogether.

The best way to make it difficult to ignore the referendum result is for a significant majority to vote in favour of the modest reform being proposed, but it could be difficult getting enough to see it this way.

“Sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis”

From the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council:


Medicinal cannabis industry welcomes sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis

The head of the New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry association is welcoming the release of the cannabis legalisation and control bill that will be voted on at the referendum as part of the general election this year.

Sally King of the NZ Medical Cannabis Council and says that while members will have their individual views, she believes the bill is designed to increase controls around access to cannabis by taking it out of the hands of criminals and young people.

“The Government has clearly looked at overseas examples of what works and come up with what looks like the best options globally to reduce access to young people and protect communities from harm.”

One of the biggest  lessons from Canada was that the medicinal and adult-use systems need to be kept quite separate.   The NZ Medicinal Cannabis Scheme became operational last month.

“The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in New Zealand has been established with rules requiring pharmaceutical grade products only available through pharmacies and at this stage only through prescriptions. It is essential that medicinal cannabis production doesn’t get mixed up with non-medicinal or we will lose the trust and confidence of prescribers and patients.”

Ms King said allowing a small amount to be homegrown and the restrictions on legal age, public consumption and selling without a license would mean the plant is no longer controlled by gangs and criminals because people will be able to grow their own.

“The current laws are not working.  The level of Police resources tied up in prosecuting people in possession of a small amount for personal use is just ridiculous; and in 2017 half of prosecutions for minor drug offences were Māori.”

Ms King said while the Canadian experience was far from perfect and there were a number of lessons to be learnt, it was also clear that the sky hadn’t fallen in, thousands of jobs had been created, motor vehicle accidents and youth access hadn’t increased.

In both the United States and Canada, legalisation has been associated with minor increases in adult use of cannabis, but youth use has remained stable or decreased (following pre-legalisation trends). In fact, from 2018–2019, since legalisation Canada has seen the biggest drop in youth use (those aged 15–17) in history, going from 19.8% to 10.4%. It is often older age groups, those aged 45–64, who report the highest increases in use following legalisation, possibly reflecting therapeutic use in older populations.

While Canada is only 18 months into legalisation after a century of prohibition, other lessons NZ has clearly noted from the Canadian experience and avoided in the proposed bill  include the problems caused by a complex regulatory process, and long delays in licensing with not enough stores accessible, problems with quality and allowing corporate domination of the  industry instead of ensuring the opportunities are available to small producers and suppliers.

Final Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill to be voted on at referendum

A ‘complete and final’ version of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will be voted on in a referendum as a part of this year’s election currently scheduled for September.

The wording of the cannabis referendum question has also been confirmed as a straight Yes/No question:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

I’m pleased about this, we will know exactly what we’re voting for or against.


Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill released

Publication of the exposure draft Bill on referendums.govt.nz follows the release of an interim version of the Bill in December last year and is part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring the voting public have ample opportunity to be informed ahead of this year’s referendums.

“It is important that all eligible voters have the opportunity to be informed about the upcoming referendums. The Government is committed to providing impartial, unbiased information on the referendums and its process,” Andrew Little said.

The exposure draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has been updated and includes details about:

  • how the cannabis market would work and the phased introduction of cannabis starting with fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis plants and seeds
  • how the regulation of consumption premises would work
  • the approvals process for cannabis products and which products would be prohibited
  • the licensing requirements
  • how the Bill proposes to reduce young people’s exposure to cannabis; and
  • infringements and penalties

No further updates of the Bill will be made before the referendum.


From the Referendums website: Summary of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The Bill’s purpose is to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families/whānau and communities

The Bill would do this by:

  • providing access to legal cannabis that meets quality and potency requirements
  • eliminating the illegal supply of cannabis
  • raising awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use
  • restricting young people’s access to cannabis
  • limiting the public visibility of cannabis
  • requiring health warnings on packaging and at the time of purchase
  • improving access to health and social services, and other kinds of support for families/whānau
  • making sure the response to any breach of the law is fair, encourages compliance and reduces overall harm.

People aged 20 or over could buy cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to:

  • buy cannabis, but only from businesses with a licence to sell cannabis
  • enter licensed premises where cannabis is sold or consumed
  • consume cannabis at a home or at licensed premises
  • purchase up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) per day
  • share up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) with another person aged 20 or over.

People aged 20 or over could grow, possess and consume cannabis

A person aged 20 or over would be able to grow 2 cannabis plants. The maximum number of plants per household is 4. Plants would need to be grown at home and out of sight, or not be accessible from public areas.

A person aged 20 or over would be able to possess up to 14 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) in public.

The Bill would establish that 14 grams of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 70 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 14 cannabis seeds
  • 210 grams of cannabis edibles
  • 980 grams of liquids
  • 3.5 grams of concentrates.

The Bill would prohibit people younger than 20 from growing, possessing and consuming cannabis

A person under age 20 found in possession of cannabis would receive a health-based response such as an education session, social or health service, or they would pay a small fee or fine. This would not lead to a conviction.

Rules for premises where cannabis is sold or consumed

Age limit

A person must be aged 20 or over to enter, or work at, premises where cannabis is sold or consumed.

Restrictions on the appearance of premises

There would be restrictions on the appearance of premises. These would include rules against promoting the fact that cannabis is available for purchase inside.

Host responsibilities

People operating retail and consumption premises would need to:

  • ensure their employees have responsible host training (this would be compulsory)
  • display information about the legal requirements they must meet, including minimising harm and meeting their obligations towards people who may be impaired by cannabis consumption
  • comply with restrictions on the display of higher risk products.

What products could be bought and sold?

Licensed cannabis products would become legal in stages, starting with dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, and cannabis seeds.

The Authority would have the power to authorise the introduction of other licensed products for sale, including concentrates and cannabis edibles, through regulations.

Some products would be banned

A number of licensed products would be prohibited, including:

  • beverages that include cannabis
  • products containing substances known to be harmful or to have harmful interactions with cannabis (such as alcohol and tobacco)
  • products designed to increase the psychoactive or addictive effects of cannabis
  • packaged dried or fresh cannabis containing roots or stems
  • products that involve ways of consuming cannabis that are higher risk, including injectables, suppositories, and products for the eyes, ears or nose.

People would be prohibited from feeding cannabis or cannabis products to animals.

Cannabis edibles would have to meet specific requirements

Cannabis edibles are cannabis products that are consumed in the same manner as food. They would be required to be solid at room temperature.

More specific requirements for cannabis edibles would include:

  • they must be restricted to baked products that do not require refrigeration or heating
  • they must be produced in separate premises to those used for conventional food production
  • they would be banned if they are found to appeal to children and young people.

What would be illegal?

Some things would be illegal, including:

  • consuming cannabis in public
  • possessing more than 14 grams of cannabis (or its equivalent) in public
  • growing more cannabis plants at home than the individual or household limit
  • growing cannabis in public
  • exposing people under age 20 to cannabis smoke or vape
  • supplying cannabis to people under age 20
  • selling cannabis without a licence
  • importing or exporting cannabis
  • supplying cannabis by mail order or courier
  • breaching the conditions of a licence.

More details:

Swarbrick and Bennett debate legalisation of personal use of cannabis

On NZ Q&A last night Chlöe Swarbrick and Paula Bennett debated the legalisation of cannabis for personal use. This will be put to the public next year in a referendum.

Bennett seems to have changed her mind. In May she refused to debate Swarbrick – Cannabis referendum: Paula Bennett on why she won’t debate Chlöe Swarbrick

Last night:

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick argues it’s time to reduce the harm caused by a drug market controlled by criminals. National MP Paula Bennett says there isn’t enough evidence to support legalisation.

The Spinoff:  A play-by-play of Paula Bennett and Chlöe Swarbrick’s cannabis referendum debate on Q&A

…they’ve come head-to-head on the cannabis referendum, with heated exchanges on social media about the issue, and Paula’s reluctance/refusal (choose applicable given your generosity) to debate Swarbrick, the Green Party spokesperson for the issue.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I came into this expecting, and kind of wanting, an utter shitfight. Two politicians, on relatively opposing sides of an issue, on the television?

What I got was instead… an informed, low heat, debate about an issue that two politicians are informed about, are passionate about, and happen to be on opposite sides of. Which is really nice, and comforting to watch.

Sounds promising. I will watch the debate and read the Talking points at The Spinoff, who quote the final statements:

Chlöe Swarbrick:

“The point that I want to leave people with is that right now we have the worst possible situation. We are empowering the criminal underground and we know for a fact that 400,000 New Zealanders are using cannabis on an annual basis and 10% of New Zealanders will have tried cannabis by the time they’re 21. The majority of people will have been exposed to it while they’re at high school.

“We have the opportunity to have some kind of control over what is currently chaos and the best way to do that is to legally regulate cannabis and to ensure that we’re providing those wrap-around supports and that potential for the disruption in the supply chain with that duty of care imposed on those who are purchasing.”

Paula Bennett:

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think that our teens are all of a sudden going to stop consuming cannabis because we legalise it. They’ll still get it from the black market because they won’t be able to get it legally because they’ll be underage, and the harms and the dangers will still be there with them. There are real issues around impairment, drug driving, what it’ll mean.

“What I saw in Canada was that the 25 stores that were in one province were not enough, they were estimating going to 1000 within eight years because actually people have a right to have access to it. I’m not sure if I want that in New Zealand, I think we should wait, get more evidence from places like Canada and then debate it and decide as a country.”

Addressing the Hosking anti-cannabis reform activism

Mike Hosking haas caused a stir in the cannabis debate with Mike’s Minute: Cannabis reform goes up in smoke

Russell Brown responds: Experts want an end to legal sanctions on cannabis use and possession

In a Mike’s Minute commentary this week, Mike Hosking told his listeners and readers that the government’s Wellbeing Budget “subscribed $1.9 billion to mental health, and yet the next move is to decriminalise a substance directly linked to psychosis.

“How mad is that?” he demanded. “How many health professionals do you need to hear from to make up your mind about the madness?”

The answer to these questions can best be found in He Ara Oranga: the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, which, as the NZ Herald observedon its release in December, is the most comprehensive report of its kind in a generation.

The expert panel that delivered the report did not rail against decriminalisation of drugs. It did the opposite. Its list of recommendations called for the replacement of criminal sanctions for use and possession of drugs with civil and health responses.

There has been a lot of disinformation and ignorance in this debate.

And some more informed and reasoned discussion.

What has been proposed in the Cabinet paper foreshadowing the referendum question is closer to Canada than Colorado and more conservative than either. The Ministry of Justice team working on the details is seeking to learn from what has worked best in other jurisdictions, not only in banning advertising and imposing age restrictions and product safety rules, but in the best ways to take the market away from organised crime.

It may also regulate potency, which is another key area for reducing harm. Under prohibition, since the 1970s, THC levels in cannabis have risen sharply – and the ratio of THC to CBD, the cannabinoid with anti-psychotic properties, has fallen far out of balance. A good deal of the harm attributed to cannabis is related to that trend. It’s a trend the black market will never reverse – supply will be dominated by what medicinal cannabis campaigner Rose Renton calls “rocket fuel” weed. It is, however, a trend that regulation – and canny tax treatment of higher-CBD strains – could change.

Drug policy is already changing in New Zealand. In response to the recommendations of the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry, a new amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act will direct police discretion towards health-based, rather than criminal, responses. Next year, New Zealanders will get to choose whether to do more, and seek to exercise some control of the way cannabis is sold.

That decision should be informed by an attention to evidence, rather whatever we fancy “common sense” to be. And it would be better made without commentators purporting to speak for medical professionals but saying the polar opposite of what those professionals actually believe.

 

Two polls suggest a movement against cannabis law reform

While there are more options than legalisation of cannabis, nd we don’t know what we will be voting on in next year’s referendum, that’s the question asked by two polls.

Newshub/Reid Research: Should we legalise Cannabis?

  • No – 48%
  • Yes – 41.7%
  • Don’t know – 10.4%

1 News/Colmar Brunton: At this stage, do you think you will vote for cannabis to be legalised, or for cannabis to remain illegal?

  • Remain illegal – 52%
  • Legalise – 39%
  • Unsure/refused – 9%

These results are based on largely uninformed opinions. We don’t know what we will be voting on. One thing is certain – there won’t be total legalisation. Current proposals being considered by Parliament are for limiting legal use to 20 years of age and over, and very limited means of obtaining cannabis for use.

There is a lot of deciding still to happen in Parliament, and a lot of lobbying and campaigning. Some of the campaigning so far has been inaccurate and comes close to scaremongering misinformation.

When we know what we will be voting on we can make our choices.

Until the pollsters know what the vote will be on all they can do is give us a rough idea of possible outcomes.

 

 

Regulatory regime key to cannabis law reform

New Zealand has had a virtual illegal free-for-all for cannabis for decades. It has proven impossible to restrict use via policing and imprisonment. Being illegal it has also deterred people with drug problems from seeking help.

So the Government is looking at a different approach – removing the illegality in part, regulating it’s availability, and promoting a health care approach.

Newsroom:  Regulatory regime the key to cannabis reform

If Chris Wilkins has his way, New Zealanders will vote yes to legalising recreational cannabis in next year’s referendum – and the money raised from sales would go to local communities, sports and arts groups and drug treatment programmes.

Dr Wilkins is an associate professor at Massey University, heading the drug research unit. He’s been looking at the drug market, drug use and drug policy for 20 years.

“I think its pretty huge. Its a new wave of cannabis law reform and you can see it around the world. The United States, Canada, Uruguay and lots of other countries are having debates about how to better address the issue of cannabis use.”

What’s unique about New Zealand is that it will be decided by a national referendum. If the majority of voters say ‘no’ in the referendum that means the status quo and prohibition continues. ‘Yes’ means legalisation.

Wilkins says the current prohibition laws don’t work for many reasons, including a thriving black market, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the involvement of organised crime and the effect of arrest and conviction.

“We have this discrimination in terms of arrest and conviction, particularly for Maori but also questions about the lifetime impact of arrest and conviction for something that a lot of people think is fairly minor behaviours,” he says.

Because it’s a crime, it has stopped users from getting treatment and health services. Because it’s an unregulated market, there are also questions about the levels of pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers in cannabis.

Polls suggest there is popular support for cannabis law reform – a majority of people have used cannabis, and will see through the scaremongering on the ill effects of some occasional recreational use. As with any drug there are problem users, but they are a minority.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, people barely used or even knew about cannabis before the mid 1960s.

“The first significant smoking of the drug occurred among a few beats and jazz enthusiasts frequenting nightclubs and coffee lounges in Wellington and Auckland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However, annual drug arrests did not reach 50 before 1964,” it says.

But things changed quickly after that and during the 1990s about 200,000 plants were seized each year, with the main areas of cultivation being in Northland, Bay of Plenty and Tasman.

By the 2000s surveys showed about half of those aged 15-45 had tried the drug, about a fifth had used it in the last year and about 15 percent were current users.

The Ministry of Health’s most recent 2017/2018 health survey shows that 11.9 percent of respondents had used cannabis that last year.

A significant but not a huge proportion of people are recent users. Will relaxing the laws increase the number of people using cannabis? Probably, in the short term at least.

Canada legalised cannabis on October 17 last year. Benedikt Fischer was in Vancouver with colleagues at the time.

“It was interesting how anti-climactic it was. We were sitting there and there was nothing discernibly different, no grandiose event, no smoke in the air because we had de-facto legalisation for a long time already.”

Dr Fischer, who worked with the Canadian government on the new legalisation framework, is now a professor at Auckland University’s faculty of medical and health sciences, specialising in addiction research.

He says there’ve been some early rollout hiccups in Canada such as a shortage of supply and users resorting to mail order in Ontario because cannabis shops haven’t yet opened.

The first survey since legalisation showing a rise in users is no surprise, he says.

The National Cannabis Survey says about 5.3 million or 18 percent of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported using cannabis in the last three months. This was higher than the 12-14 percent who reported using just one year earlier, before legalisation.

That doesn’t say what sort of use. It is likely that casual use increased, but problem cannabis users will already be getting what they want so are unlikely to be affected – except that if they can source their supplies legally that will reduce their contact with criminal pushers who seem intent on moving users onto more dangerous (and more profitable) drugs like P.

But Wilkins doesn’t support legalisation based on the Sale of Liquor model.

“The importance from now on is talking about the detail of what the regulatory regime is going to look like, because it isn’t just a binary choice between prohibition and an alcohol-style market. There are lots of different variations of a more controlled market, a more regulated market, a market that benefits communities and also takes care of vulnerable people.”

He proposes a not-for-profit public health model where cannabis would be sold by philanthropic societies and local communities, and drug treatment facilities would benefit.

“You’d have a community trust that has people elected from the communities – I’m thinking about the alcohol licensing trusts where people from the community are elected to these trusts and the trusts have obligations to return money back to the community for community purposes, like sports, arts, recreation centres.”

New Zealanders should look at Uruguay and Canada as legalisation models, rather than the United States, Wilkins says.

People are looking at what has happened in other countries, seeing what has worked and what hasn’t worked. They should also be looking at Portugal.

There is some strong opposition to relaxing drug laws – there is a small but determined conservative nanny state lobby.

We will no doubt keep debating the pros and cons of drug law reform, until we see what Parliament puts forwards for us to vote on. Then the real battle will begin.

 

Chlöe Swarbrick on the cannabis referendum (Q&A)

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick was interviewed on Q&A last night on the cannabis referendum. (National’s Paula Bennett refused to take part alongside Swarbrick – see Bennett refuses to appear alongside Swarbrick in cannabis discussion).

Bennett refuses to appear alongside Swarbrick in cannabis discussion

National deputy leader Paula Bennett has refused to appear alongside Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick on Q&A last night to discuss the cannabis referendum. This is a continuation of Bennett, National’s ‘Spokesperson for Drug Reform’, refusing to take part in drug reform discussions.

This is extraordinary arrogance (that an opposition MP can ill afford), or fear of being shown up by Swabrick, who is very well informed on cannabis issues. Bennett has a habit of misrepresenting cannabis information, and scaremongering.

This isn’t the first time that Bennett has refused to discuss cannabis issues with Swarbrick. She has repeatedly  has refused to join a cross party group dealing with cannabis law reform.

 

I think that’s a fair response from Swarbrick.

It turns out that Andrew Little is going to lead the cross-party group, but National made a different excuse to not take part.

More on this from Stuff in National Party won’t commit to enacting result of 2020 cannabis referendum:

National Party leader Simon Bridges said his party cannot commit to enacting the result of the 2020 cannabis referendum if elected as he has not seen the draft bill yet.

Sort of fair enough on this. But…

“I would need to see the law and I would need to have answers to some basic questions like: What’s the tax rate going to be? Will gangs be able legally to sell drugs in New Zealand? Will edible gummy bears be legal?” Bridges said.

“Of course I trust the public, it’s the Government I don’t trust.”

This is nonsense. The public will vote on whatever the Government produces in their draft bill. Bridges is effectively saying he wouldn’t trust the decision made by voters who get a chance to judge the draft bill for themselves.

Bennett has rejected invitations from Green spokeswoman on drug reform Chloe Swarbrick to join this group in the past.

She said today she would be happy to join if it was led by a minister.

“I just don’t see how with all respect a junior member of Parliament that is not part of Government is the spokesperson on drug reform which could change the social fabric of this country,” Bennett said.

“If they are serious about cross-party, put a cabinet minister in there and I will happily sit with them and any other member of Parliament,” Bennett said.

If Bennett was serious about contributing to drug law reform she would have been contributing to the cross-party group already.  It sounds like excuses from her – and the excuses keep changing.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Andrew Little confirmed he would be leading the group.

Bennett still did not commit to joining the group.

“We will want to see terms of reference and what the group will be doing before deciding,” Bennett said.

This is a very disappointing attitude from Bennett and National. Their petty arrogance in Opposition, and their apparent determination to disrupt drug reform initiatives, is likely to hurt their support amongst the all important floating voters.