Abe Grey open letter on shift to TOP

Abe Grey has posted an open letter on Facebook to all present and past members of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party after announcing he was shifting allegiance to The Opportunities Party (TOP).


AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL PAST AND PRESENT AOTEAROA LEGALISE CANNABIS PARTY MEMBERS FROM PARTY PRESIDENT ABE GRAY

WHY I’M LEAVING THE ALCP AND JOINING THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY AND WHY YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has existed for over 20 years and contested every election and by-election since MMP. The principle of the Party is sound, under MMP any party that gets over 5% is able to wield its influence in Coalition negotiations and demand certain bottom lines.

In theory, the Cannabis Party could make cannabis legalisation a post-election demand if they were to get 5%, just like Peter Dunne made no cannabis legalisation an election demand last time he got over 5% back in 2002. Unfortunately, the Cannabis party have never reached 5%, and it’s unlikely they ever will.

I have not always been a die-hard Cannabis Party supporter and I am conflicted about my vote being ‘wasted’ as a ‘protest vote’. I used to be a very enthusiastic member of the New Zealand Green Party but I was disgusted by the way they backed away from the Cannabis issue even though it was the right thing. Now they have come back to their ‘grass-roots’, but for those of us who had to endure the last 10 years of silence on the issue it is too little too late.

The only reason the Cannabis Party has existed in those years, and the only reason that I would give any of my energy to it, is that no other party had the guts to stand up for what was right and tell the truth about cannabis. They were all too concerned about the public image of their own party and not about the wellbeing of the people of New Zealand.

I’d always said if ever a mainstream party were to take up an appropriate cannabis policy (and actually campaign on it), or if a new party were to come along that actually had a chance of getting into Parliament and made cannabis law reform a central issue of their policy programme (along with other policies I support), that I would leave the ALCP and devote my energies to the party with the best policy that actually had a chance of being elected.

I have waited for this to happen for the last 5 elections an unfortunately it hasn’t … until now.

Call me ahead of my time, but the things I have been saying about cannabis for over a decade have now all of a sudden become very fashionable, even the subject of jokey banter between Richard Branson and John Key!

And now as we get closer to the election many parties are beginning to jump on the bandwagon and signal rhetorically that they would be willing to ‘do something’ about the cannabis issue. I’m wary of this, as I’ve seen this before and the rhetoric is seldom matched by action.

But this time around The Opportunities Party really stands out to me for having a policy that is not only based on evidence and public health best practice, but also has the guts to see the policy through to its logical conclusion instead of just waffling around the edges without really ‘doing’ anything. And they have matched their policy prowess with thoughtful and forceful campaigning on the issue in the media.

The TOP cannabis policy in my opinion is the best possible policy you could have. It ties together decades of research and public health discussions, arriving at a framework that is unquestionably best practise. This is exactly the cannabis policy I would have written if I had the resources of a well-funded policy think tank at my disposal, and every serious cannabis law reform advocate I know feels the same. The fact that TOP arrived at this exact policy through an evidence based process and without the input of the pro-cannabis lobby only further vindicates law reform advocates and speaks volumes for the robustness of TOP’s evidence based policy approach.

That’s why I am leaving the Cannabis Party and joining TOP and will be giving my Party Vote to TOP at this election. And I encourage any current or former Cannabis Party members/voters to do the same.

For the first time in memory we actually have a party prepared to stand up for us, and make cannabis legalisation a high priority, a party that actually has a chance of getting into parliament.

Better still, they also have a whole bunch of other great policies that are similarly bold and put the wellbeing of New Zealanders ahead of political appearances. Besides even if for some reason they don’t get in, they will still do much better than the 0.5% ALCP usually gets, and by adding our 0.5% to TOP’s result we will send an even stronger message and put the career politicians on notice that cannabis legalisation is a high priority for NZ voters.

If you want to join me visit www.top.org.nz to sign up.

Sincerely
Your departing President
Abe Gray

Grey shifting from Cannabis Party to TOP

Abe Grey, president of the Cannabis Party (ALCP – Aotearoa Cannabis Party) is switching to TOP (The Opportunity Party).

I think this is a sensible move, the Cannabis Party has managed to get a creditable amount of votes, comparable to ACT and United Future, but had little hope of growing that to anywhere near the 5% threshold.

NewsHub: Cannabis Party leader quits for Opportunities Party

ALCP President Abe Gray is resigning his office to join TOP, saying the Cannabis Party does not have a future. He is urging members of his former party to join him. “It’s been eclipsed,” he told The AM Show.

“The Cannabis Party – no one’s really taken it that seriously recently, but it had to exist because none of the other parties were prepared to speak up about the cannabis issue, and it’s a very important issue in New Zealand.”

He is throwing his support behind The Opportunities Party to help it reach the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament without winning an electorate seat.

“The only people who have a real policy that is workable and that are willing to campaign on it aggressively is The Opportunities Party, and they have exclipsed the Cannabis Party,” Mr Gray said.

“All the other parties were worried about their political appearances, but especially the Greens, who have historically taken up that issue.”

For years Greens have laid claim to being the cannabis law reform party but have disappointed many due to not being prepared to put any priority on promoting their drug policy.

The Green Party’s drug policy would see cannabis, including culivation, legalised for personal use. The Greens say overseas evidence would be assesed to determine the best model for New Zealand.

The Opportunities Party’s cannabis policy would see a taxable retail trade established and would allow each person to grow two plants for personal use. Unlicensed culivation and dealing would still be a crime.

Mr Gray said it is “exactly the policy [he] would have written if [he] had the resources of an economic policy think-tank like Gareth [Morgan] does.”

The Opportunities Party cannabis policy would:

  • License suppliers to encourage small-scale regional supply and regulate the potency of supply.
  • Use a tax (based on THC potency) and minimum price to ensure the price doesn’t fall.
  • Allow retail sales only through Cannabis Licensing Trusts (local charities) or a Government online store. It will not be sold in the same outlets as alcohol.
  • Ensure the placement of retail outlets (if any) will be subject to local authority regulation.
  • Use revenue generated by the tax and profits of the Trusts (estimated at $150m) for education, after school projects for youth, treatment of addiction for all drugs and regulation to control demand.
  • Allow home growing of up to two plants.
  • Set the legal age of purchase & use at 20 and ensure education campaigns discourage use until 25.

TOP still have a big challenge. They first have to look like they stand a chance of getting up to somewhere near the 5% threshold to encourage voters to nudge them over the line.

In a recent Listener political poll TOP got an adjusted equivalent of 3%, which is promising, but that will need to be backed up by other poll results. They haven’t yet featured on Roy Morgan polls so will just be a part of the 1.5% of Other in their May poll.

See also:

 

Abe Grey promoting Cannabis in Mt Albert

The Cannabis Party (previously known as the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party) has announced that Abe Gray will contest the My Albert by-election.

I think this is a smart move. This is a good opportunity to push Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter and the Labour and Green parties on how serious they are about supporting cannabis law reform, or at least whether they would support and enable a referendum to let the people decide.

The Cannabis Party launches Mt Albert by-election campaign with Radio Hauraki personality Abe Gray announced as the party’s candidate

The Cannabis Party is entering the race for the Mt Albert by-election after radio personality Abe Gray threw his hat in the ring.

Gray is a well known radio DJ with a weekly slot on Radio Hauraki’s popular breakfast show, hosted by Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells.

Gray is leading the charge for a binding referendum on cannabis laws in New Zealand,  which was vocally promoted by the late Helen Kelly.

He worked closely with Helen Kelly to draft the specific legislation required to create the binding referendum, prior to her death. However, no MPs in Parliament have adopted the legislation.

Gray questions whether the Greens and Labour are serious about cannabis law reform, given they turned their back on Helen Kelly’s referendum legislation.

The by-election gives Gray the opportunity to keep questioning them through the by-election campaign, as I’m sure he will do.

“A binding referendum on the questions of medical and recreational cannabis is my top priority,” he said.

“It should be the democratic right of all New Zealanders to have their say on this important issue.”

Gray promised to submit Helen Kelly’s referendum legislation to the private member’s ballot on day-one if he is elected to Parliament.

Gray’s main opponent will be the media if they refuse to give him equal coverage (Ardern is already getting media favouritism).

If the media decides that cannabis has headline potential it could work in the Cannabis Party’s favour. Even if Ardern does cruise to victory as predicted the campaign is a good opportunity to highlight an issue that New Zealand politicians seem to be paying lip service to at best, while many other countries are seriously responding to social and health pressures on cannabis.

Gray is a good choice for the Cannabis Party, he has a lot of campaign and public activism experience.

NZ political parties in 2016

Brief reviews of the mid term political year for New Zealand parties.

The main issues have been:

  • Continued shortages of new house building and an escalation of housing prices, especially in Auckland, and an increased focus on homelessness
  • Growing attention given to ‘poverty’ as it is in New Zealand, and the income gap  despite the first increase in benefits in forty years.
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership got a lot of attention early in the year but that fizzled as it became evident that the US was unlikely to ratify it.

National

The National Party would probably have thought they had survived the year quite well, chugging away without doing anything radical, and staying  extraordinarily high in the polls most of the time for  a third term government.

An improving economy along with improving dairy prices have helped.

But Key resigned in December. National selected the Key anointed Bill English to take over, but how a new look National will be seen by the public won’t be known until next year.

Labour

Andrew Little consolidated his leadership, kept the Labour caucus under control and appears he is safe until next year’s election, but he failed to lift his appeal to the public, and Labour must be worried to be stuck in the twenties in the polls.

Labour entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and they tried to rebrand as a two-party alternative government but that didn’t change the polls much and may have created as many problems as it solved.

Labour finished the year buoyant after successful local body and Mt Roskill by-election campaigns, and noticeably raised in confidence when John Key resigned, but they have failed to impress as a potential lead party in government.

They survived the year and hope to benefit from a Key-less National but haven’t done enough to make a positive impression.

Greens

New co-leader James Shaw settled in without standing out, but Greens have lost one of their most respected MPS, Kevin Hague.

Their big play was the Memorandum of Understanding with Labour but that doesn’t seem to have  been the game changer they hoped for.

Metiria Turei seems to be dominant, and that probably limits the Greens’ electability, but they have at least stayed in a 10-15% support band in the polls so have a base to work from next year.

NZ First

Following Winston Peters’ big win in Northland NZ First have benefited from unusually good poll support for most of the year (it tailed off towards the end).

But it looks like Winston is catching his breath before election year. The party has done little of note apart from Peters occasionally trying to appear as the anti-politician, even though he’s one of the longest serving members of Parliament. He tried to capitalise on the Trump success in the US but that doesn’t seem to have done much.

Maori Party

The Maori Party has been working towards more complementary campaigning with the Mana Party in an attempt to create a stronger Maori bloc in Parliament. They are targeting the Maori seats held by Labour.

Maori tend to do politics quite differently to the rest. The Maori party has been the best of the rest in the polls but will want to pick that up more next year as well as pick up some electorates.

ACT Party

David Seymour has done fairly well at getting attention for a one person party and has had some small successes but his party has struggled to get anywhere. It has been Seymour rather than ACT.

United Future

Peter Dunne has had a quiet year apart from bearing the brunt of medical cannabis and recreational drug criticism, even though he is severely limited by National who don’t want to change anything on drug laws. Dunne’s party remains pretty much anonymous.

Conservative Party

An awful year for Colin Craig in the courts and an awful year for his party. Neither are credible and neither look likely to make a comeback.

Mana Party

Hone Harawira and the Mana movement are trying to make a comeback by working together with the Maori Party, so have established some possibilities this year without proving they can get back into Parliament.

Internet Party

Kim Dotcom seems to see his political influence in other ways than expensive and ineffective parties, and ex leader Laila Harre has joined Labour and wants to stand for them, so the Internet party looks a short blip in political history.

Cannabis Party

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has simplified it’s name and has tried to benefit from increasing changes on cannabis laws overseas but haven’t found the formula required to become a significant political force yet.

The Opportunities Party

Gareth Morgan launched his own party this year and gets media attention – money speaks – and has announced a couple of policies but so far it looks like him and no one else.

NZ Peoples Party

The Peoples’ Party launched as a representative of immigrants and stood a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election but will have been disappointed by their result, despite a weak National campaign.

Cannabis Party versus Peter Dunne

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford has taken issue with things Peter Dunne said on Q & A on Sunday – in fact he claims Dunne lied.

Dunne and UIC ‘misleading the public’

The Cannabis Party is accusing Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne of misleading the public over medical cannabis.

Dunne told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that although “we talk about medicinal cannabis, actually there’s no such thing”.

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford said Dunne was lying when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal unless it was packaged into a pharmaceutical product.

“In 23 States of the US they have legalised medical cannabis in its raw form, without the need for any involvement from the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping medical cannabis illegal,” Crawford said.

“Peter Dunne has deliberately deceived the New Zealand public when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal. In reality around 40% of New Zealand’s cannabis users are using it for medical reasons. Even when smoked it has medicinal benefits.”

The Cannabis Party are calling for patients and their caregivers to be able to form non-profit organisations to grow and dispense medical cannabis in New Zealand, without all the delays and costs involved with clinical trials.

“Dunne is simply a glove puppet of the pharmaceutical lobby, he has not softened his stance one bit regarding the medical use of cannabis in its natural form,” Crawford said.

The Cannabis Party has denied that it wants to use the medical cannabis issue as a backdoor for recreational use.

“The party wants medical cannabis in its natural form available now so that thousands of patients with hundreds of illnesses can find some relief,” Crawford said.

“Dunne and United in Compassion have muddied the waters with misinformation that is preventing meaningful dialogue around the medical cannabis laws.”

TVNZ press release of the interview with Dunne:

Health Minister open to medicinal marijuana

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told TVOne’s Q+A programme that he’s open to the possibilities cannabis based medicines offer.

“I think it would be a really good thing if we could get clinical trials in New Zealand, because that way we can work through exactly what the formulations might be, what the product should look like and who the patients who it will benefit could be, because at the moment we’ve got very general talk. We talk about medicinal cannabis. Actually, there’s no such thing. There’s medicinal cannabis products. And I think it would be very, very good to get some much more specific and scientific evidence about the efficacy before we can make decisions,” said Mr Dunne.

Both Mr Dunne and campaigner Toni-Marie Matich said there was still a stigma attached to cannabis based products:

Absolutely. We’ve written to and approached 300 organisations this year to have really logical, responsible discussion for their patients said Toni-Marie Matich. Look, it took six months and three banks to get a bank account she said.

Video of interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)