Euthanasia and cannabis polls

Research NZ has bing doing polls related to the referendums on euthanasia and cannabis.

Asked whether they were in favour or not in favour of the legislation which allows terminally ill adults to request a medically assisted death:

  • 64% in favour
  • 18% not in favour
  • 7% don’t know

Research NZ managing partner Emanuel Kalafatelis said 52 percent of survey respondents said they had recently seen or heard information about legalising euthanasia, while 55 percent said they had thought about the issue and about a third had discussed it with their friends and family.

…the figure shows a softening in the level of support and when the same question was asked in December last year approximately 70 percent of respondents were in favour of the legislation, while the number of those strongly in favour of the legislation dropped from 50 percent six months ago to 33 percent today.

Kalafatelis said there is a relatively higher level of support among older age groups, but the level of support across all age groups is well over 50 percent.

“Are you in favour or not in favour of a government controlling by law how cannabis is grown, manufactured and sold in New Zealand for recreational use.”

  • 43% in favour
  • 39% against

These results do not show any major difference with the results from the cannabis poll taken six months ago, he said.

Kalafatelis said there is quite significant support for legalising cannabis among younger age groups, with the level of support at 57 percent amongst the 18 to 24 year olds.

Report: Kiwis back euthanasia, split on legalising cannabis – poll

Official information:

Cannabis legalisation and control referendum

End of Life Choice referendum

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.

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:

I think most voters can manage a couple of referendum votes as well as party and candidate votes

That sounds like nonsense to me. I’m fairly sure most voters will be able to manage a couple of referendum votes on top of a couple of general election votes (one party vote, one electorate vote).

It will still be far simpler than local body elections where there are multiple STV votes (here it was city mayor, city council, regional council and DHB board) where ranking of a large number of candidates is required.

The two referendums – one on cannabis, the other on the End of Life Choice bill – may attract more people to vote.

More negative commentary on the referendums:  Labour and the referendums of dread

Both of these referendums are a potential problem for the Government and not insignificant ones. The first and most obvious reason is that cannabis and euthanasia could crowd out whatever issues the Government is running on: be it the Zero Carbon Bill, trade deals, a strong economy, low unemployment.

This could, of course, be a problem for both the Government and the Opposition. At key points in the lead-up to and during the campaign, either party’s momentum could be stalled if the wrong drug or euthanasia issue crops up.

But the political downsides are potentially much worse for the Government. First, and most obviously, the National party has a leader who genuinely and simply opposes both of these things. And secondly, as this column flagged a couple of weeks ago, National is going to sharpen its focus on cost of living issues, which it sees as of key importance for voters. National can effectively paint any focus away from those things as a distracted Government concerned with peripheral issues.

The euthanasia bill is probably not so much of a problem – it wasn’t the Government’s idea and it was supported by MPs across the political divide. Cannabis is a different story. Counting the Nats, NZ First voters at the last election – nominally conservative voters, plus probably not an insubstantial conservative working class Labour vote, this could be a lose-lose issue for Labour. Lots of Labour voters, and the Prime Minister has said this of her own experience growing up in small rural towns, know the damage drugs can do.

While Ardern may see merits in legalisation for health reasons, she is very far from being some sort of pro-drug flag-waving leftie. Essentially the Prime Minister wants to be a citizen like everyone else in this issue, in all the difficulties it poses. The problem is that in the heat of a campaign, that could be politically difficult.

Yet as the election moves on, the issues could prove hard to avoid and there is probably no ‘right’ side of the argument for Labour. It could potentially lose votes either way.

It could potentially do nothing like this as well.

The fact is we are having two referendums alongside next year’s general election.

I’m fairly sure Labour and National will figure out campaign strategies the run alongside the referendum issue debates.

And I think that most voters will manage a couple of yes/no votes (if they choose to vote on the referendum questions) as well as choosing a party and an electorate candidate (if they bother to vote on these).

It won’t be complicated. Sure the extra votes could deter a few people from voting. But I think it is more likely to encourage more people to vote – those who are passionate about either of the referendum questions, and those who can’t usually be bothered voting for parties and politicians.

 

If euthanasia bill passes it will be decided by referendum

A small majority of MPs (63 to 57) have voted for a referendum to make the final decision on euthanasia if the End of Life Choice Bill passes it’s third reading which will happen in November.

The successful referendum vote makes it more likely that the Bill will pass as NZ First MPs said they would support the bill if the final decision would be made by voters.

Some say this is good democracy, with “the people” deciding the outcome, but others claim it an avoidance of responsibility of parliament in a representative democracy, where nearly all decisions are made by MPs and by parties that have been voted into Parliament.

It is claimed that MPs are in a better position to make important decisions as they all should have listened to extensive arguments for and against legislation, as opposed to ‘the people”, most of whom hear or read little of the arguments and are more susceptible to misinformation and emotive and coercive claims.

Stuff:  Euthanasia referendum on the cards after tight vote in Parliament

New Zealanders will likely be asked to decide whether euthanasia should be legal in a referendum at the 2020 election after a tight vote in Parliament.

David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill was amended on Wednesday night to include a binding referendum on whether it should come into force, by a knife-edge vote of 63 to 57.

The referendum is not certain as the bill still has to make it through a third reading vote next month.

But the referendum gives it a much higher chance of passing as it keeps NZ First on board with the legislation.

Seymour mostly kept together his coalition that helped him pass the second reading of the bill, although 10 previous “yes” votes voted against the referendum, while three previous “no” votes voted for it.

A majority of Labour MPs (28) voted for the referendum, including leader Jacinda Ardern. A majority of National MPs (39) voted against it, including leader Simon Bridges.

Seymour struck a deal with NZ First early in the bill’s passage to get the party’s support for the bill in exchange for the referendum.

He and many other supporters of the bill are not generally supportive of the bill being a referendum, but understood the need for it to go to one in order to pass the next vote.

“This referendum clause is critical to keeping a coalition of MPs to be able to give people choice at the end of their life,” Seymour said at the opening of the debate.

This vote for a referendum can’t be taken as an indicator of possible support for the bill, as some supporters of the bill will have preferred no referendum, while some opponents of the bill may prefer a referendum.

Voting on the bill in Parliament  is in an unusual situation, with National and Labour allowing their MPs a conscience vote, but NZ First and Green MPs required to vote as party blocs.

The votes on the referendum):

AYES (63)

Labour (29): ARDERN Jacinda, DAVIS Kelvin, LITTLE Andrew, ROBERTSON Grant, WOODS Megan, HIPKINS Chris, SEPULONI Carmel Jean, PARKER David, NASH Stuart, HUO Raymond, LEES-GALLOWAY Iain Francis, TINETTI Jan, PRIME Willow-Jean, FAAFOI Kris, ALLAN Kiri, CURRAN Clare, DYSON Ruth, ANDERSEN Ginny, LUXTON Jo RUSSELL Deborah, CRAIG Liz, LUBECK Marja, EAGLE Paul, McANULTY Kieran, RADHAKRISHNAN Priyanca, WARREN-CLARK Angie, O’CONNOR Greg, HENARE Peeni, WEBB Duncan.

National (15): BENNETT Paula, ADAMS Amy, KAYE Nikki, COLLINS Judith, MITCHELL Mark, BENNETT David, SIMPSON Scott, KURIGER Barbara, DOOCEY Matt, YANG Jian, BISHOP Chris, KING Matt, FALLOON Andrew, STANFORD Erica, YULE Lawrence.

NZ First (9): PETERS Winston, MARK Ron, MARTIN Tracey, TABUTEAU Fletcher, BALL Darroch, MITCHELL Clayton, PATTERSON Mark JONES Shane, MARCROFT Jenny.

Green (8): SHAW James DAVIDSON Marama, GENTER Julie Anne, SAGE Eugenie, HUGHES Gareth, LOGIE Jan, SWARBRICK Chlöe, GHAHRAMAN Golriz.

ACT (1): SEYMOUR David.

Independent (1): ROSS Jami-Lee.

NOES (57)

Labour (17): TWYFORD Phil, CLARK David,=sum SIO Aupito Tofae Sua William, O’CONNOR Damien, SALESA Jenny, JACKSON Willie, WILLIAMS Poto, WALL Louisa, WOOD Michael Philip, MALLARD Trevor, COFFEY Tamati, STRANGE Jamie, KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI Anahila, MAHUTA Nanaia, WHATIRI Meka, RURAWHE Adrian, TIRIKATENE Rino.

National (40): CARTER David, PUGH Maureen, BROWNLEE Gerry, BRIDGES Simon, LOHENI Agnes, WOODHOUSE Michael, TOLLEY Anne, GUY Nathan, McCLAY Todd, SMITH Nick, BARRY Maggie, GOLDSMITH Paul, UPSTON Louise, NGARO Alfred, WAGNER Nicky, DEAN Jacqui, HUDSON Brett, LEE Melissa, BAKSHI Kanwaljit Singh, PARMAR Parmjeet, YOUNG Jonathan, HAYES Jo, McKELVIE Ian, O’CONNOR Simon, BAYY Andrew, DOWIE Sarah, MULLER Todd, RETI Shane, SCOTT Alastair, SMITH Stuart, BROWN Simeon, HIPANGO Harete, LEE Denise, PENK Chris, VAN de MOLEN Tim, WALKER Hamish, GARCIA Paulo, WILLIS Nicola, BIDOIS Dan.

 

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.

 

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.

Dunne calls ‘sophistry and bollocks’ on party posturing on cannabis referendum

Peter Dunne has blasted the Government and the Opposition, calling their posturing on the proposed cannabis referendum sophistry and bollocks.

sohistry: The use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.

bollocks: Nonsense; rubbish (used to express contempt or disagreement, or as an exclamation of annoyance)

So quite strong language from Dunne.

Newsroom:  Sophistry and bollocks on the referendum

Next year’s referendum on recreational cannabis will be the first Government-initiated referendum not to have an immediate definitive outcome. Despite being styled as a binding referendum, it will, in reality, be no more than an indicative vote whether or not people wish to change the legal status of cannabis used for recreational purposes along the lines to be set put in a proposed Bill to accompany the referendum.

But this Bill will not even be put before Parliament, let alone passed, until after the referendum has been held, so voters are being asked to take a great deal on trust.

The Justice Minister has given a commitment that the current three Government parties will treat the outcome of the referendum as binding, and that the Bill will come before the next Parliament. But he has given no assurances that the Bill will be the same as that to be released before the referendum, or that it will not be substantially strengthened or weakened by the select committee process to follow, or even when during the term it might be introduced and passed.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition says he cannot say what his party’s position will be until they see the proposed legislation. The Minister tries to justify his position by saying that no Parliament can bind its successor Parliaments.

This is, to put it politely, pure sophistic bollocks.

sophistic bollocks: deceitful nonsense

Every piece of legislation passed and regulation promulgated by every New Zealand Parliament since our first Parliament met in May 1854 has to some extent or another bound successor Parliaments. Indeed, if those successor Parliaments have not liked laws passed by their predecessors, they have either repealed or amended them.

That is the stuff of politics and political discourse is all about, and governments have always reserved the right to upend the legislation of an earlier government if they have not liked it, and to replace it with something more akin to their own way of thinking.

From the referendum on compulsory peacetime conscription in 1949, through to the 1967 and 1990 referenda on extending the Parliamentary term to four years, and those referred to earlier, governments of the day have used the process judiciously to allow the voters to determine controversial issues that either the politicians cannot decide upon, or, in the case of electoral law changes, should not decide upon.

And the prime example of the dangers of having a binding referendum with little defined, and then trusting politicians to follow the will of the majority, is Brexit. It is not just a mess on leaving the EU, it’s making a mess of the whole political system in the UK.

The notion of a government-initiated referendum that might or might not be binding, or implemented quite as people expect, has been completely foreign to all of those earlier examples. Yet that is precisely what New Zealand now faces with this Government’s, all things to all people, recreational cannabis referendum.

But it is actually worse than that, which could produce more uncertainty than it seeks to resolve.

On the assumption the referendum passes, the country faces a period of uncertainty while the legislation is considered and wends its way through the Parliamentary process, over at least most of 2021, and possibly the early part of 2022, assuming the Government decides to proceed with it as a priority, and that is by no means a given.

I can’t remember how many times I have heard the current Labour led Government say a promise or policy is ‘not a priority’, which is doublespeak for ‘get stuffed, we’re not doing it now’.

Trust politicians?

All this uncertainty creates a potentially extraordinarily confusing situation, which could have been avoided had the specific law been in place before the referendum, to be triggered by a positive vote.

Everyone would have known not only where things would stand once the law changed, but it will also occur immediately, removing instantly the uncertainty likely to accrue from the inevitable post referendum delay and confusion the government’s current approach will surely cause. However, without that, the current disgruntlement about the inconsistent way the current law on cannabis operates, is likely to give way to a new disgruntlement about its replacement.

The way this issue has turned out is another example of how this unwieldly administration seems at sixes and sevens when it comes to major policy development.

Nothing ever seems to be able to be implemented quite the way it was promoted two years ago when the Government took office. The compromises necessary to keep Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens may well be examples of MMP government in practice but they are increasingly looking like weak excuses for missed opportunities.

Is cannabis law reform therefore about to join welfare, tax reform, electoral reform and a raft of other things this Government says it would “love” to do properly, but, when the crunch comes, just cannot ever quite manage to bring together in a cohesive and comprehensive way?

The only think making the deceitful nonsense from the Government look so bad is the matching deceitful nonsense from the opposition.

 

 

 

Cannabis referendum announcement

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern advised the Cabinet had made a decision on how they will do the cannabis referendum that has to be held before or alongside next year’s general election.

She said that Minister of Justice Andrew Little will make an announcement on it today.

There’s been a lot of conjecture, lobbying, shonky polling, leaking, misleading claims and noise over cannabis law reform.

No one in Government denies there are health issues with cannabis use, especially for young people. The whole aim of law reform is to switch from a law and punishment approach (which has been unsuccessful if not disastrous), to a health and treatment approach.


UPDATE: the announcement:

New Zealanders to make the decision in cannabis referendum

The Government has announced details of how New Zealanders will choose whether or not to legalise and regulate cannabis, said Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The Coalition Government is committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals. The referendum is a commitment in the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement, as well as a longstanding commitment from New Zealand First to hold a referendum on the issue.

“There will be a clear choice for New Zealanders in a referendum at the 2020 General Election. Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation.

“That draft legislation will include:

  • A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis,
  • Regulations and commercial supply controls,
  • Limited home-growing options,
  • A public education programme,
  • Stakeholder engagement.

“Officials are now empowered to draft the legislation with stakeholder input, and the Electoral Commission will draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot.

“The voters’ choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome.

“We hope and expect the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters’ decision.

“I have today released the actual paper considered by Cabinet,” said Andrew Little.

The Justice Minister also confirmed there will be no other government initiated referendums at the next election.


Initial reaction – Green quick off the mark.