Dunne to support Genter’s medicinal cannabis bill

When Green MP Julie Anne Genter’s medicinal cannabis bill was drawn from the Member’s ballot Peter Dunne said he would decide on whether he would support it or not when it cam time to vote on it at it’s first reading in Parliament.

Dunne said he had major reservations about the bill and it was unworkable.

However Dunne has now said he will support the bill at it’s first reading when he was taking part in a panel discussion  at the Drug Symposium.

RNZ: Peter Dunne to back first reading of medicinal cannabis bill

Today Mr Dunne said he’d been talking to Julie Anne Genter and he will vote in support of the bill in it’s first reading.

“There are a lot of things in the bill that would need to be changed before it could proceed further, but I think it’s a useful discussion to have, and to see where the Select Committee gets to”.

Getting Dunne onside at least for the first reading is a success for Genter, but the bill will still requite support from NZ First or from at least a chunk of National if they are allowed a conscience vote.

At the symposium MPs from the ACT, Maori, Green and Labour parties said they would all support the bill, but more votes from wither NZ First or National would be needed.

National MP Chris Bishop said his party hasn’t made it’s mind up yet.

“It’s one of those issues where we do want to have a good discussion about it as a Caucus. We may decide to have it as a conscience vote where MPs can vote individually. We may also decide to have it as a party vote where the National Party takes a party position.

Polls show there is strong public support for changes to cannabis and drug law, especially related to medicinal cannabis.

It would be a travesty of democracy if Parliament didn’t allow this bill to at least progress past the first reading.


Dunne’s drug symposium speech

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne delivered the opening speech at the Healthy Drug Law Parliamentary Symposium in Wellington. Here is his speech:

Healthy Drug Law Parliamentary Symposium, Parliament Buildings

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all this morning to the Healthy Drug Law Parliamentary Symposium, and to our sponsor, the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

I thank Alison for her warm introduction.

Alison has taken a strong interest on drug issues for some time now, and she and I have spoken on it relatively frequently – I cannot think of a better Chair for this event.

Today we have come from all corners of the world to work together on shifting attitudes and responses to drug issues.

It is a fantastic opportunity for us to explore some innovative ways in which we might tackle these complex issues and I want to extend my warmest greetings to those who have travelled from outside of Wellington to be here, particularly to our international guests.

There is a lot going on in New Zealand at present, we have an international rugby tour, a celebration of a significant yachting competition win, preparation for a General Election in a little under 12 weeks and of course we have this Symposium (clearly the most important)…

Following me will be Professor Alison Ritter from Australia to present us with a first-class overview of the landscape.

Then, following Professor Ritter will be the Honourable Anne McLellan from Canada, and Alison Holcomb from the United States.

I am excited to hear the first-hand accounts of implementing drug policy in their respective jurisdictions that they have to share.

We will finish the morning with a cross-party political panel for some reflection on what we have heard in the morning’s addresses.

I want to highlight some of the things that we have achieved over the last few years, and later talk about some of the challenges remaining and the innovative thinking that has been going on in the area of drug policy in New Zealand.

As many of you will know, New Zealand’s National Drug Policy focuses on early intervention and prevention; the underlying principles being compassion, innovation and proportion.

These are principles which I have emphasised strongly on numerous occasions, from United Nations meetings in Vienna, and the New York, to here at home, and which I will continue to affirm.

With this policy we set out to:

  • increase access to support and treatment services
  • provide the knowledge and tools necessary for better decision making
  • reduce the illegal supply of drugs.

The principles of the National Drug Policy demonstrate our commitment to taking a health-based approach to minimising drug and alcohol harm in New Zealand, rather than treating drugs primarily as a law and order issue.

Given that, I would like to take a moment to highlight a few examples of the great progress that has been made under the guidance of our National Drug Policy over the last year.

In Northland, the Te Ara Oranga Methamphetamine Harm Reduction pilot is a great example of a collaborative community harm reduction approach in action.

It builds on earlier initiatives such as the Auckland Regional Methamphetamine Working Group, established in 2011, and the Waikato Methamphetamine Prevention Strategy, established in 2016.

This pilot will be a joint venture between the Police and the Northland District Health Board.

It aims to reduce demand for methamphetamine use in the Northland community, thereby reducing the harm caused by its use.

It will work with the community and whānau to help addicted users and gang members get treatment for methamphetamine use, and will be launched next month.

The high visibility of the Health Promotion Agency’s ‘Go the Distance’ campaign demonstrates our approach to minimising harm by changing attitudes.

This campaign aims to instil a new norm of moderate alcohol consumption – something of a departure from the historical New Zealand culture of hazardous drinking behaviour.

New Zealand’s Police and Customs officials have made great progress in breaking the drug supply chain.

They are developing good working relationships with overseas law enforcement agencies and have increaed the number of drug interceptions the border.

And, as a prime example of our focus on early intervention and prevention, a ‘Whole School Approach’ pilot to reduce alcohol and other harm will soon be underway across a number of schools in New Zealand.

This initiative equips schools with more resources to keep students engaged in education by:

  • creating a more positive school environment
  • delivering effective education on alcohol and drug-related harm
  • providing help for problematic substance use.

Over the next 12 months, the Government will begin work on refreshing the actions outlined in the National Drug Policy to take us into 2020.

This will build on the good work that has already been achieved and is currently underway.

As we all know, medicinal cannabis-based products are a hot topic right now, and I am looking forward to hearing what the next few speakers have to say, as well as having the opportunity to discuss it afterwards on the panel.

In New Zealand, we are in the process of developing regulations for accessing Cannabidiol on a prescription basis.

This will bring us in to line with the Australian approach, which previously identified that Cannabidiol appears to have some therapeutic benefits while having very little psychoactive effect.

This easing of restrictions on something that used to be highly regulated reflects our pragmatic and compassionate approach to this issue.

We have also made significant progress around enabling access to non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products over the last 18 months or so – moving from a system that really did not allow for it, to having a robust clinician-led process and strong engagement from the Ministry of Health.

I am also keen to see New Zealand-based clinical trials undertaken and have advocated strongly, and will continue to, for progress on this with my ministerial colleagues.

Whether anything comes to fruition from these discussions remains to be seen, but I strongly believe New Zealand must make progress on this front to avoid falling behind other jurisdictions.

Products that have been through a robust clinical trial process I believe hold the most promise in effectively addressing the conditions for which they may be indicated – as I have stated previously, trial and error is not an appropriate approach to serious illness in a first world country such as New Zealand.

While I am delighted that we have achieved some success in lessening drug harm, reducing supply and easing unnecessary legal restrictions, we must remain focussed on the challenges ahead.

For example, we need to continue to reduce hazardous alcohol consumption and nurture a moderate drinking culture.

Reducing hazardous alcohol consumption, and changing attitudes towards it, are key objectives of the National Drug Policy.

So far, there has been encouraging progress.

The percentage of adults who drink hazardously has decreased from 18% in 2006/07 to 16 percent in 2013/14 – a small but significant improvement.

Perhaps most significantly, among 18-24 year olds, hazardous drinking has decreased from 43% in 2006/07 to just 33% in 2013/14.

That is a substantial decrease of nearly a quarter, and it is great to see young people leading by example in this area.

Yes, the binge drinking levels among 18-24 year olds are still unacceptably high, but such a significant decrease must be acknowledged for its magnitude – the message is getting through and a significant proportion are either changing their behaviour or refraining from such behaviour in the first place.

That said, our rates of hazardous drinking remain high by international standards, and alcohol continues to be a key factor in about a third of New Zealand’s fatal road crashes.

Alcohol is also a key factor in a third of family violence incidents.

But let me say this – while alcohol may be a factor, it is no excuse, because there is simply no excuse.

There is no place for family and domestic violence, not in New Zealand, and not anywhere else, and I want to commend the work of my colleague Hon Amy Adams, and many others, in this area.

Of course, we cannot address these issues properly without addressing the harmful stigma which engulfs alcohol and substance use disorders.

We must build on the good work done so far to cultivate a more moderate drinking culture, have more open conversations, and make it easier to access alcohol, drug and youth support services.

Earlier this year I read an article in the news about workplace drug testing, in which the head of a drug testing agency stated about employers, and I quote, “they certainly don’t want someone who’s got an addiction problem entering into their workplace.”

I found this a pretty disappointing and counterproductive perspective, and unfortunately indicative of the views of some, perhaps many, around addiction issues.

Drug testing plays an important role in New Zealand’s higher risk work places, particularly where machinery is involved, for the benefit of the individual, their colleagues and the company as a whole.

But let us not lose sight of the health and safety reasons for it, and not start using it as a de facto law enforcement and punitive measure.

Drug testing of course has been a popular topic this week, but from a harm prevention public health perspective.

The Drug Foundation’s revelation that drug testing facilities at music festivals had enabled intending drug takers to get their various products tested and make an informed choice about whether to proceed is significant, and frankly such an approach must be supported by Government.

The law is, in my view, grey on the matter and I plan to have further discussions on the issue.

At a minimum, the replacement Misuse of Drugs Act, planning for which I hope will commence after the election, will need to address such situations primarily from a public health perspective.

Another issue which I am eager to keep discussing is – how do we walk the fine legal line between a compassionate approach toward low-risk drug use, and an uncompromising stance on large-scale criminal activity?

Finding a solution that truly works is something that I am passionate about.

I hear on an almost daily basis from individuals who have a particular perspective, and so often the approach that they put forward ‘will solve everything and we will all live happily ever after’, either by locking all the druggies up or by throwing the market wide open and laughing all the way to the bank.

Personally, I do not believe that there is a perfect system, or a perfect policy out there.

Most of the approaches I have seen and read about have positives and negatives – the key is to develop a system that suits New Zealand and maximises the benefits while minimising the negatives.

Sounds pretty simple does it not?

Long-term, relevant and effective strategies, I believe, will be born out of progressive thinking and concrete evidence.

New Zealand has already demonstrated an ability to make a unique mark on drug reform landscape.

The Psychoactive Substances Act revolutionised our response to the ever-changing psychoactive market, and put us back in the driver’s seat.

This innovative approach places the onus on the supplier.

They must first prove the safety of a new psychoactive before selling it.

Previously, we were always one step behind, scrambling to get the safety data after a harmful substance was already on the market.

I anticipate that we will see the benefits of this Act in the near future, once alternatives to animal testing are approved.

When that occurs, it is my long-held view that we should consider shifting those low grade drugs currently scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, to the Psychoactive Substances Act, where they can be tested and regulated under its provisions, if deemed to be low-risk.

That will not only establish a regulated market for such items, but will also deal to the black and criminal markets which currently control the production and distribution of such drugs.

The bottom line has to be to get the criminals out of the drug business where possible, and I am optimistic that the use of the Psychoactive Substances Act regime in this way would vastly improve the drug situation in New Zealand.

As many of you will know, I am a strong supporter of the Portuguese approach to drug regulation.

It manages to balance tolerance for low-risk use with clear legal and health-focussed boundaries.

Unfortunately, people tend to focus on the former aspect.

However, making cultivation and possession illegal, while referring all drug users for assessment and, if appropriate, treatment, is the crux of the system.

In Portugal’s case, possession of up to 10 days’ worth of low-risk drug supply would warrant referral for treatment rather than legal consequences – a proportionate response to low-level drug use.

Much of the time and money that would have gone into prosecution, can instead be invested into assessment and treatment services, all the while, freeing up Police resources.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health will be exploring further options this year for minimising harm in relation to the offence and penalty regime for personal possession within the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

This is one of the 28 actions contained in the government’s National Drug Policy 2015 – 2020, which, if I strongly encourage you to read, if you have not already done so.

Anybody who saw my interview on Q&A on the weekend will have heard me refer to the National Drug Policy repeatedly – it is in my view an excellent document and plan of action, and addresses many of the questions that the media regularly put to me on drug issues.

As it was being prepared, I had my eye not just on the here and now situation, but also on what might develop over the years, so therefore focused on a document that provided a clear pathway for the future for those who wished to see it.

My critics accuse me of dragging my feet on drug policy, of withholding, denying and clinging grimly to the status quo.

To them I say this, in the last 5 years I have overseen:

  • the development of the internationally acclaimed Psychoactive Substances Act;
  • a pathway to access non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products (approving all applications I received);
  • direct prescribing of Sativex by doctors;
  • Cabinet agreement to reclassify Cannabidiol;
  • the launch of the outstanding Alcohol and Other Drug Court alongside Hon Judith Collins
  • a host of other initiatives such as those contained in the National Drug Policy, which I launched in 2015

And I continue to advocate for clinical trials, and drug-testing at festivals.

I have attended multiple international and national forums and spoken of New Zealand’s compassionate, innovative and proportionate response and condemned the use of the death penalty in foreign jurisdictions, particularly in regard to drug offences.

All of this has been achieved as a single member Party in a confidence and supply arrangement with a conservative government.

So to my critics I say, show me what you have achieved.

This is not to say that more cannot be done, and that is why this Symposium is so valuable.

The Drug Foundation has lined up an array of excellent speakers whom I look forward to hearing from, and whom I am sure will also endorse the three key principles that I have emphasised.

And I will be delighted to discuss the issues on the panel with an elite selection of my parliamentary colleagues.

Let me also extend my congratulations to Drug Foundation executive director, Ross Bell, for organising this event.

Ross does a great job, particularly around advocating for change where he thinks it is needed.

He drives the issues and holds the Government to account, which is not always enjoyable for me, but it is appropriate, and I enjoy the constructive and open working relationship that has developed between Ross and me.

So when Ross approached me about hosting the Symposium here at Parliament, I had no hesitation.

I am excited to be part of the conversation on the future of drug policy.

Over the next couple of days I challenge you to think boldly and consider how we can come together to solve some of the challenges that lie ahead – I will do the same.

I very much look forward to participating, as my diary permits, in the rest of the symposium.

Drug Foundation details: 2017 Parliamentary Drug Law Symposium


Cannabis law reform – when, how, not if

It may take a change of government but it looks likely cannabis (and other drug) law will be reformed. It’s just a matter of when and how.

The National Party is the main impediment to drug law reform.

Stuff: What would happen if New Zealand legalised cannabis?

Peter Dunne, the bespectacled politician in the bow-tie, was the unlikely hero of drug reform.

Not really. I’ve known he was open to cannabis law change six years ago because I asked him about it.

In May, the Associate Health Minister ventured that “some, if not all” class C drugs should be reclassified and regulated.

That Dunne, a 63-year-old, 11-term MP should be the one to fly the kite for drug reform – and hit no particular turbulence – said a lot. Perhaps he was not such an unlikely hero after all.

Three-quarters of adult New Zealanders have tried cannabis. Diversion for low-level personal cannabis use is common. And the Government has recently made allowances for some medicinal cannabis use.

So, what if it was legal?

Stuff has just launched “a major series exploring that prospect”.

What would happen if farmers could sow cannabis crops? Would gangs suffer from it becoming legal? Could our health system manage a possible surge in patients with addiction problems? Is there a massive tax windfall awaiting us in a regulated market?

It’s time we explored these questions in detail as, in all probability, a regulated market draws nearer.

There are signs cannabis prohibition could be headed the same way as the ban on same-sex marriage. Only a year or two before a conservative MP stood in New Zealand’s Parliament to celebrate “the big gay rainbow” that welcomed same sex marriage, that law change appeared unlikely, at best. We could be in the middle of the same kind of sea-change right now.

poll last year suggested almost two-thirds of New Zealanders believed possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be either legal (33 per cent) or decriminalised (31 per cent).

The split between those for legalisation and those for decriminalisation reflects where the debate really resides: not whether we should change cannabis laws – but how.

This is strong public support for change.

Expert opinion weighs even more heavily in favour of change.

We start today by explaining the basic differences between depenalisation, decriminalisation and legalisation.

To be clear: this project does not mean we’re supporting cannabis use or even advocating for law reform. It means we’re advocating addressing the cannabis question head-on, through a candid conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of a change in drug policy.

The debate is at a tipping point and in need of informed discussion in the mainstream. And that includes everyone – the dread-locked, the sports jocks and the bow-tied.

This series will help drive the debate and will hopefully get through to reluctant MPs.

The status quo on drug law is untenable.


Q+A: tool to keep drug users safe

Q+A will look at issues about treating drug users this morning:

In a controversial move, the New Zealand Drug Foundation is choosing to break the law in a bid to enable drug users to get high safely.

The Drug Foundation has purchased a radical new machine that is capable of testing exactly what is in recreational drugs such as MDMA.

They have been taking the spectroscopy machine around summer music festivals in New Zealand.

Over the course of the summer 11 percent of the drugs tested were what they said, but contained at least one other substance, while 20 percent of the drugs tested ended up being something completely different.

The Drug Foundation’s Executive Director Ross Bell told TVNZ’s Q+A “what we’ve seen around the world is that people are dying.

“There’s all these new chemicals out there and people are dying because of those, we want to look at how we can prevent that happening in New Zealand.”

Those behind the testing won’t say what festivals they’ve been to because festival organisers could be charged for allowing their premises to be used for drugs.

Police say that the testing is illegal under the misuse of drugs act.

The Drug foundation hopes they can move drugs from a criminal issue into a health one, making people think twice before taking a substance which they don’t know the contents of.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told Q+A:

“I think it’s inevitable that when the misuse of drugs act is reviewed in the next couple of years that using these testing kits will be considered.”

He went on to say his own personal view is that he is in favour of the testing, as anything which can be used as a preventative measure and is the interest of public safety is a positive thing.

Dunne showed (again) that his preference is similar to the Drug Foundation’s, to deal with cannabis and other drug law quite differently, especially treating drug abuse and addiction as a health problem, not a law problem, little is likely to change under a National led government.

Watch: Q+A investigates a drug testing kit keeping drug users safe from harm

Also: Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne – does the drug testing kit win his support?


Reactions to Labour’s immigration policy

Labour announced their immigration policy yesterday – see Little announces Labour’s immigration policy.

Greens are usually quick to respond to political news of the day but have nothing on their website about it yet.

NZ Herald:  English says Labour’s immigration ‘breather’ would stall momentum in the economy

Prime Minister Bill English’s strenuous opposition to Labour’s proposed “breather” in immigration draws a clear battle-line in the election.

Labour leader Andrew Little wants net migration cut from the current 70,000 a year by up to 30,000 – mainly targeting overseas students – saying it will relieve pressure on Auckland road by 20,000 cars and 10,000 houses annually.

But English says Labour’s policy is based on a misunderstanding of the export education sector – 70 per cent to 80 per cent of such students left New Zealand at the end of their study, the students did not buy houses and not many had cars.

English also said the cut would stall the momentum in the economy which was producing 10,000 new jobs every month.

RNZ:  Labour’s immigration policy could ruin colleges – industry

Up to 70 percent of private training colleges could collapse if Labour’s new immigration policy is implemented, an organisation representing the industry says.

The Labour Party’s policy targets international students on low-level courses, in a bid to cut down migration by up to 30,000 people a year.

Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand, which represents the industry, predicts up to 70 percent of the sector’s business could collapse.

Chairperson Christine Clark said targeting private training establishments (PTEs) would not solve the problem.

She said Mr Little had confused low level with low quality, and the policy sent a message that people who studied at PTEs were low-level people.

“By saying low level, he’s also targeting the providers who are training the chefs and training the barristers and the technicians and the horticultural people and the farmers and the caregivers.

“New Zealand actually needs those people.”

Dave Guerin from Ed Insider, a company which gives advice to tertiary education groups, said polytechnics would also be in trouble.

“Polytechnics are heavily reliant on the Indian and Chinese market. In some places they make up 80 to 90 percent of their international students.

“I’ve just gone through most of the polytechnic sector’s annual reports. Most of them are seeing growth in international students and declines in domestic students, so if they see a decline in international student then they’ll be in the red financially.”

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said about 20 percent of its workers were on student visas.

Mr Chapman liked Labour’s idea of a visa system which would help people get more jobs in the regions, but said the overall policy did not promote growth.

“The whole policy needs to recognise that we do need skilled workers in this country, be they Kiwis or [through] immigration. We need that balance.

“Any policy that pushes down and stops growth is not assisting the industry going forward.”

RNZ:  ‘Pandering’: Rival MPs criticise Labour immigration plan

United Future leader Peter Dunne…

…said Labour’s plan was “really all about race and pandering to a certain section of the vote”.

“It’s a nod and a wink to try to get New Zealand First on side.

“But frankly it’s going to have a detrimental effect on a number of tertiary institutions in terms of their funding [and] also in terms of the skillset coming into New Zealand.”

ACT leader David Seymour…

…said it was a sad day when “the major opposition party starts beating the race drum”.

“They’ve clearly been watching the UK election. They’ve seen UK Labour do well from the collapse of UKIP [United Kingdom Independence Party]. They’re getting desperate.

“They think that maybe they can engineer something like that by moving into New Zealand First’s territory.”

The Green Party…

…is worried some might see the policy as a pitch to xenophobia, but has come to Labour’s defence.

Co-leader James Shaw said he did not think that was where Labour was coming from.

“They’ve done a lot of work and they’ve come a long way from where they were in this debate.

“My sense is that they are trying to reframe the debate as one about how we manage this for the sake of the people who are coming here.”

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters…

…said Labour had finally seen the light.

“But when we were saying it, we were being dumped on by all and sundry, and now all of a sudden the lightbulb’s gone off.

“They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and that’s about the size of it.”

Andrew Little has just been asked on RNZ what endorsement of Labour’s immigration policy by Peters meant. Little said he was happy to get support for the policy from anyone.



Dunne, Seymour, Flavell on euthanasia bill

Three minor party leaders were asked about their positions on the End of Life Choice Bill that was recently drawn from the Members’ ballot in a joint interview on The Nation yesterday.

Obviously ACT leader David Seymour supports his own bill.

Mr Seymour, I want to bring up your bill that was pulled from the ballot this week – euthanasia. Is it good timing for you, or could this end up being a bit too controversial for an election year?

Seymour: Look, I think it’s an important issue, and I think that the fact that it’s come up in election year is probably the best time for the bill, because MPs are overwhelmingly out of step with public opinion. I think that there are a majority of MPs that will support it, but nowhere near as close as the overwhelming support—70%, 80% of New Zealanders want this change.

From a 2015 post here:  Two polls strongly support euthanasia

One News/Colmar Brunton:

Should a patient should be able to request a doctor’s assistance to end their life?

  • Yes 75%
  • No 21%
  • Undecided 5%

3 News/Reid Research

Should law be changed to allow “assisted dying” or euthanasia?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 24%
  • Unsure 5%

Stuff:  Most Kiwis support euthanasia for those with painful, incurable diseases

  • Support: 66%
  • Neutral or unsure: 21.7%
  • Strongly oppose: 12.3%

Total response 15,822 in a University of Auckland study taking it’s results from the 2014-15 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) survey, which Lee said provided “reliable demographic and personality differences in support for euthanasia”.

You have quite a conservative voter base, though. What do they think? Is this party policy for Act?

Seymour: I think that people in the Act Party are in favour of freedom and choice. The Act Party board blessed me putting this bill into the ballot.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell:

Te Ururoa, you’re not keen on passing this bill, are you?

Flavell: No, and I suspect that many of our own people are. There’s some issues around whakapapa that are hugely important here. And the decision-making – actually, who has the decision-making right at the last minute, the ability of whanau to have an influence in the decision—

So is it a definite no for you?

Flavell: At the moment, it is leaning towards no, but we’re led by our people, and I’m pretty sure that that’s the feeling of many Maori.

If your people tell you otherwise, will you vote for this?

Flavell: We have to give it consideration. I mean, it’s a conscience vote, so we’ll cross that at the time. But certainly, this is one of the major issues that you’ve just got to go back to the people on.

That’s what all MPs should do on conscience votes – they should represent to conscience of their constituency.

United Future leader Peter Dunne:

Dunne: Well, I think you’ve got to respect the rights of people who are terminally ill to make their own decisions and to have those upheld by those around them. But I think—

So you’ll vote for this bill?

Dunne: No, what I’m saying is I think this is an issue where we’ve got to be very careful that we have a very clear sense of where the community stands. I’m going to do a lot of listening over the next few weeks, because this bill is not going to come before parliament – probably in the life of this parliament – but I want to hear what people say, because I think this is—

But as Mr Flavell says, it will be a conscience vote, so what does your conscience vote?

Dunne: Well, I’ve told you where I’m tending, but what I’m saying is that this is a decision that will have very widespread ramifications whichever way it goes. It’s important that we take the bulk of the population with us and we understand what their concerns are, and that’s why I’m going to do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking.

Again the right approach, but leaving how he might vote uncertain at this stage.

It seems unlikely the bill will go to it’s First reading and first vote before the election so not all current MPs will get to decide for us on this.

While I think it’s likely Seymour and Flavell will keep their seats it is less certain for Dunne.

It’s likely most Green and Labour MPs will support this bill at least past the first reading. I don’t now how NZ First MPs might vote. Most National MPs may vote against it.

But a lot may depend on who returns to Parliament after the election.

Bill English opposes euthanasia but if National lose power he may well resign.

The Nation – support parties

This morning The Nation looks at the support parties and  their leaders, Peter Dunne, David Seymour and Te Ururoa Flavell – ” what have they got out of their support arrangements this term?”

And “What have National done well and badly this term?”

Name one area where the Government is excelling?

Peter Dunne – economic development, but now need to move on to social investment.

Te Ururoa Flavell agrees with that assessment.

David Seymour says they are excelling in education and partnership schools – which happens to be ACT policy.

To Flavell on poor Maori statistics – they want more and have huge expectations, but he says they need to influence from the side. Biggest achievement? Whanau Ora.

How many families have benefited? 11,000 in the last year.

Is National governing too far to the left? Seymour says yes, the budget is a good example,  and likens policy to Labour policy – and then switches to ACT’s tax policy promotion.

The people who benefit most from tax cuts will be the highest earners – Seymour concedes on that.

Dunne says he would address housing with a ‘national housing summit’. Just more talking?  He cites from yesterday in Auckland with a development blocked as an example that things aren’t working.

Seymour jumps in and says we have to free up more land for building on.

Is the euthanasia bill good timing or awkward? Seymour says it’s the best timing as he says that MPs are out of step with public opinion on it.

Flavell is not keen on the bill, leaning toward no but will be guided by his people.

Dunne says you have to respect the rights of those who are dying and their families, he says he is tending that way, but wants to hear what people say before making a decision on a vote (if he is still in parliament when it comes up).

On the medical cannabis bill he says he has problems with Julie Anne Genter’s bill but wants to talk with her about it.

Seymour supports the cannabis bill, Flavell supports it getting past the first reading so it can be looked at in detail with input from the public.

Seymour says there is no such things as an electorate deal, but expects an endorsement from National.

Dunne says people in Ohariu aren’t happy with “what has happened” and he is getting more support than before.

Flavell says that Labour keeps throwing Maori under a bus and doesn’t expect them to work with them, and that National has been prepared to work with them.  “The leadership of the Labour party have declared they don’t want to work with us, which is a problem”.

Seymour takes issue with the intro that said the Maori Party is most likely to increase their number of seats. He predicts they will repeat their 2008 performance (they got 5 seats).

Has Dunne got confidence he could work with Labour? To many policy differences so it is a remote chance.

Dunne says NZ First is likely to be disruptive.

Flavell says they are prepared to try and work with any party.

Seymour says there is no way he would work with NZ First after the election.

In the panel discussion Jane Clifton said that Seymour will just do what he is told, which is very condescending and ignorant from her.

Genter v Dunne on cannabis and drug law

Coincidental to Julie Anne Genter’s Medicinal Cannabis bill being drawn from the Members’ ballot – see  Medicinal Cannabis Bill  – she already had a question lined up in Parliament yesterday on drug and cannabis law.

This was targeting the Minister of Health (Jonathan Coleman) but for some odd reason was transferred to Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne.

Drugs, Illegal—Cannabis

7. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does he stand by his reported statements that the current drug law does not really work that well, and that cannabis should be regulated under the Psychoactive Substances Act; if not, why not?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): In short, yes. The Misuse of Drugs Act was passed in 1975, and as I noted a couple of years ago in the foreword to the Government’s National Drug Policy: “We also have to be prepared to challenge traditional approaches and ways of thinking about these issues. Innovation is essential in a world where new drugs are detected every week and the black market has gone digital.” I would point out to the member that one of the actions being taken this year as part of the National Drug Policy is a review of the offence and penalty provisions for personal possession, as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act. With regard to the psychoactive substances aspect of the question, that is a re-statement of a United Future position from as long ago as 2013. I accept it may not necessarily be the Government’s position.

Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that regulating cannabis under the Psychoactive Substances Act would be in line with the recommendations from the Law Commission on drug law reform?

Hon PETER DUNNE: From memory, the Law Commission’s recommendations were made prior to the passage of the Psychoactive Substances Act, but, in general, my understanding of its recommendations would see those align with the proposal I have advanced of regulating such substances under that Act.

Julie Anne Genter: Can he confirm that the evidence from overseas and in New Zealand suggests that regulating and treating drug use as a health issue is a far more effective way of minimising the harms associated with it than treating it as a criminal issue?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Yes, I can confirm that. Indeed, that has been the statement that the New Zealand Government has made to the United Nations every year for about the last decade. It is certainly consistent with the National Drug Policy, and it is the position that a majority of States around the world adopt these days.

Julie Anne Genter: Does the Associate Minister of Health believe that we have not been able to make progress on implementing the recommendations of the Law Commission—regulating cannabis as a health issue rather than treating it as a criminal issue—because the National Party is unwilling—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no responsibility at all from the Minister for the National Party. That question is not in order.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this chart from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of California, San Francisco, which shows that cannabis is far less harmful and has less addiction potential than a number of legal substances—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave—[Interruption] Order! It has been well described; I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular chart. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

Cannabidiol (CBD) can now be prescribed by doctors

A small but important step towards making it easier to access the medicinal cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-hallucinogenic extract and believed to be beneficial for a number of ailments and for pain relief.

There are very few products available in New Zealand, but was they become available the way is clear for doctors to prescribe them. Currently approval has to be sought through the Ministry of Health.

Australia has already dome something similar so it will allow New Zealand to access the same CBD based drugs that become available in Australia.

Peter Dunne has driven this, getting the approval of the National dominated Cabinet.

Beehive notice:

Government to ease restrictions on Cannabidiol

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says New Zealand is to remove restrictions around cannabidiol (CBD), in line with international developments.

CBD is a substance found in cannabis that has potential therapeutic value. It has little or no psychoactive properties, yet it is currently a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“At present CBD products for therapeutic use are only available if approval is given by the Ministry of Health.

“I have taken advice from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) that CBD should not be a controlled drug and am pleased Cabinet has now accepted my recommendation to make this change.  Therefore, I am now taking steps to remove restrictions accordingly.

“In practical terms, the changes mean CBD would be able to be prescribed by a doctor to their patient and supplied in a manner similar to any other prescription medicine.

“Australia has already taken a similar step while other countries are also responding to emerging evidence that CBD has a low risk of harm when used therapeutically.

“This change is about future-proofing access to CBD products, as the reality is that there will continue to be barriers beyond New Zealand’s control to people accessing such products from overseas,” says Mr Dunne.

Currently there is a limited range of CBD products made to a standard where prescribers can be sure the products contains what is claimed – and strict import and export restrictions on products sourced from other countries, which will continue to impact the supply of CBD products in New Zealand.

“However, we do know of at least one CBD product in development made to high manufacturing standards that will contain two per cent or less of the other cannabinoids found in cannabis,” said Mr Dunne.

The changes will include removing requirements for:

  • Ministerial approval to prescribe;
  • pharmacies, prescribers, and wholesalers to have an import licence, and to meet certain requirements for storage, and the maintaining of controlled drug records and stock keeping.

Prescriptions would be allowed for up to three months’ supply, rather than one month. These measures can be achieved by amending the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977 in the first instance, pending any future amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Dunne versus Little and Labour

Peter Dunne started in politics and in Parliament with Labour. He split off and helped form United New Zealand in 1995, merging and becoming United Future in 2002.

Dunne and UF worked in coalition with Helen Clark’s Labour government, and then with John Key’s National government in which he is still a minister.

It sounds like Dunne’s chances of working with Labour again are slim, going by a post from him this week.

I spent more than 22 years as a member of the Labour Party – possibly a longer time in the Party than many of its current Caucus, and virtually all of the fly-by-night candidates dragged together for this election.

However, the Labour Party today is vastly different from the Party I joined as a university student, or even that which UnitedFuture supported on confidence and supply matters during the Helen Clark years. The sense of optimism and enthusiasm for New Zealand that pervaded Labour previously in even the darkest of times now seems to have deserted it completely.

Labour appears these days to be against everything, and for nothing. Maybe it is the permanently grim, dark disposition of its current leader, or maybe it is the length of time the Party has spent in Opposition.

Whatever, the effect is that Labour and its image seem more and more out of time and irrelevant.

Irrelevant to Dunne’s future coalition options perhaps but to survive Dunne will have to beat a concerted effort by Labour to oust him from Ohariu.

The reaction to the recent Budget was but the latest example of this. Labour was the only Party to oppose outright the tax and benefit changes in the Budget. Other Parties certainly expressed their misgivings and offered alternative ways by which families could be uplifted, but, at the same time, supported the Budget legislation because they recognised the incongruity of opposing outright a set of measures from which many New Zealand families will benefit.

By its blanket opposition, Labour simply revealed its sourness and churlishness, and the fact that under its current leadership, at least, it has lost the capacity to appreciate that other Parties can have good ideas too.

It seems to think that only it can do things to assist the less well-off, and it is unreasonably affronted when others make what it sees as a raid on its traditional territory.

This bitter, graceless approach smacks of the worst of envy politics (even the CTU welcomed aspects of the Family Assistance Package!) and is a pathetic throwback to the cloth-cap politics of a bygone era.

For its part, Labour still seems trapped by having a singular view of the world which they believe voters will come to accept, then embrace, once they hear more of it. In this world, compromise and pragmatism are unwelcome dirty words, lest they dilute the “true” message.

Labour’s “we know best” attitude stands defiantly and forlornly all by itself. Labour – for so long the party of reform – is now but a hollow shadow of itself.

Saddening to some, but surprising to few.

I think it is sad to see how negative Labour is, and how badly they have done since Clark lost the 2008 election.

A strong democracy needs at least two strongly competing major parties, and Labour seems to have resigned itself to being a second tier party.

While Labour could come through to cobble together a multi party coalition out of the election in September they could also (or instead) emerge as a depleted force with either or both the Greens and NZ First competing with them for the role of second biggest party.

It’s quite feasible that NZ First + Greens will be bigger than Labour.

It seems obvious that Dunne won’t be welcome by Labour in any coalition  considerations. His latest post is unlikely to go down well – Labourites hate being told what they are doing wrong.

Labour still have time to rise from the doldrums, especially if National look too tired and/or arrogant. But they are also at risk of fading away.

Currently Andrew Little seems to be an appropriate face for Labour – negative, dour and unable to think on their feet. They may find a way of connecting with voters over the next few months but they are running out of time.

Dunne has come out swinging against his old party, but unless Labour wakes up they are their own worst enemy.