Medical cannabis bill passes third reading

The medical cannabis has passed it’s final vote in Parliament today. Minister of Health David Clark called it the most progressive bill ever, which will grate on those who were hopeful the Government would treat medical and general use of cannabis as boldly as a growing number of countries and states around the world. But at least it’s a start.

NZ Herald: Medicinal cannabis bill passes third reading

A bill that gives terminally ill people a legal defence for using illicit cannabis products has passed its third reading in Parliament today.

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill also gives them a defence to possess utensils for using cannabis.

That defence comes into force as soon as the bill receives royal assent.

Last month, during the bill’s second reading, Health Minister David Clark made changes to the bill that expanded the defence to all people needing palliative relief, rather than just those with a year or less to live, as it previously was.

The changes also created a requirement for regulations for the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme to be in place no later than one year after the law comes into effect, allaying concerns that it could take as long as 2020 before the regulatory framework was in place.

It made clear that cannabis varieties already in New Zealand could be used for medicinal products, prompting at least one therapeutic cannabis company to call for illicit growers to come forward with their unique strains.

Following the bill’s passing, Clark said the statutory defence would be available to around 25,000 people who could benefit from palliative care.

But it wasn’t progressive enough to cover people suffering from chronic pain and debilitating illnesses that are hard to treat with conventional medicines.

Greens are happy they have finally got somewhere on freeing up cannabis laws.

National are acting like numpties. After voting for the bill initially they voted against it today and are grizzling about the bill. They had held up doing anything meaningful about dysfunctional drug laws through their last nine years in Government.

Historical homosexual convictions able to be wiped

Last night the Criminal Records (expungement of convictions for historical homosexual offences) Bill passed its third reading with Parliament voting unanimously for a Bill that will allow men convicted of homosexual ‘crimes’ up until the offences were scrapped in 1986 to have their convictions wiped from their records.

This bill was started by the previous National-led Government and continued by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Government.

RNZ: MPs vote for historical homosexual convictions to be wiped

Parliament has voted unanimously to support legislation allowing men convicted of historical homosexual offences to have them wiped from their records.

Consensual sex between men aged 16 and over was decriminalised in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

The scheme will allow people to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have their convictions expunged, without formal court hearings or needing to appear in person.


It was terrible law that was scrapped in more enlightened times, but sadly failed to address the damage done for a further thirty two years. At least sorting things out belatedly has the full support of all parties and MPs.

Last July Men convicted for homosexual activity receive apology from govt

The Justice Minister has formally apologised to New Zealand men who were convicted in the past for consensual homosexual activity.

Parliament decriminalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and over in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

Advocates for the men say the stigma of the convictions has been devastating for many, but the apology is a step in the right direction.

Amy Adams delivered the apology in Parliament this afternoon, during the first reading of a bill that expunges those historic convictions.

“Today we are putting on the record that this house deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the many hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong, and for that, we are sorry.”

Ms Adams said it was unimaginable today that New Zealand would criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults.

“Almost four years ago, this Parliament passed [the marriage equality law] to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, and I was proud to vote in favour of it.

“Today is another historic day for the New Zealand gay community and their families, as Parliament formally apologises for the hurt cause by the convictions and takes the first reading of a bill to expunge those convictions.”

During the debate of the bill, Labour’s Grant Robertson told the house that the imprisonments, the arrests and the fear did not just ruin lives, it killed people.

“Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been lost because men could not bear the shame, the stigma and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way that society viewed them as criminals.

“It is for all of that, that we must apologise.”

So now the apology has been followed by legislation that allows men to set their records straight. It won’t undo all the damage done to people’s lives – some of which have been lost – but it will help those who have been burdened by convictions.

Two bills pass

The Government successfully had two bills passed in Parliament yesterday.

NZH: Paid parental leave amendment passes final reading in Parliament

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill has passed it’s final reading in Parliament.

NZH:Longer paid parental leave starts in July

Bill extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks by July 2020 has passed its final reading.

And NZH: Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill is Govt’s second major law to pass

The Government insists that new minimum standards to ensure rental homes are warm and dry will not push up the price of renting – and help will be available to landlords facing extra costs.

The Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill – which requires minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation and drainage in rental homes – passed its third and final reading in Parliament this evening.

The bill passed with the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Green parties. I

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said most landlords do a good job, but the lack of legal standards means some rentals are not fit to live in.

“A butcher isn’t allowed to sell meat that will make their customers sick, but a landlord is allowed to rent out a house that is too cold, or damp and damages the health of its occupants.

It may help push some landlords to improve houses and flats, but it won’t guarantee every house and flat will always be warm and healthy. Tenants (and owner/occupiers) need to take some responsibility for their own living conditions.

Controversial RMA reforms passed into law

Yesterday the third reading vote passed the controversial RMA reforms into law but 1 vote.

National have been determined to get the RMA through this term. When David Seymour (ACT) and Peter Dunne (UF) had objections to some parts of the bill National turned to the Maori Party to get it over the line.

But RMA reforms causing tensions over race relations

Tensions over race relations have been to the fore as the Government’s managed to pass its RMA reforms into law thanks to backing from the Maori Party.

ACT leader David Seymour said the reforms won’t do nothing for housing affordability, nor will it do nothing for land supply and the building of new dwellings, but it will be close enough to nothing.

“It will be close enough to nothing that he has wasted two and a half years of his ministerial time and much of this houses time bringing a bill that is two steps backward for each one step forward.”

Labour MP David Parker’s slammed the Government for using the housing crisis to drive its RMA reforms, calling it dishonest.

“Blaming the RMA and planners for the tax biases and the inequality that’s driven home ownership in New Zealand to the lowest level since the 1950s for over 60 years is just wrong.”

I thought it is widely understood  that the housing shortage is in large part due to RMA restrictions on new subdivisions and building. It has become too easy for people to oppose building, and getting resource consent can be time consuming and expensive – and at risk of failing.

Most parties supported RMA reform, including Labour, but didn’t support the full package that National wanted.

New Zealand First’s maintained a vocal opposition to new iwi participation measures in RMA rules with party deputy leader Ron Mark arguing one law for all should apply.

“We are all created equal in God’s eyes and nothing in legislation will ever change that no how many flip flops Mr Nick Smith makes.”

An odd comment from Mark that was smacked down by Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox:

“I find that last contribution quite ironic from the man who was the chief treaty negotiator for Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.”

National have defended the result of their collusion with the Maori Party by slanging back.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has accused those of opposing the Bill of doing the country a disservice.

“They quibbled at the edges, they tried to manufacture myths, but they’ve been unable to amount any credible argument against the substantive reforms in this bill, in fact they barely mentioned them.”

But, although reform was widely supported, others had serious concerns about some of the quibbly edge bits.

Smith would have to be one of the worst Government negotiators ever.

While the RMA reforms may or may not bother most voters (more likely not) the deal making done by National is likely to be used to slam the Maori Party in the election campaign,

Article 50 Bill passes third reading

The ”Brexit’ bill in the UK has easily passed it’s third reading and will now go to the House of Lords.

A quick round up from Missy:

As mentioned above the Article 50 Bill passed the third reading today and will go to the House of Lords. Of the large number of amendments put forward, only a minority were selected for voting on, part of this is that many were the same, or covered the same issues.

All of the amendments were defeated, including the one for a second referendum and the one to guarantee EU citizen’s rights in the UK. The Liberal Democrats have said they will instruct their members in the Lords to put forward the amendment again for a vote in the House. There are many commentators on social media that have seen this move as the Lib Dems showing their contempt for British citizens, and only caring about Europeans.

I find this interesting as the EU citizens whose rights they are trying to secure are unable to vote in UK elections anyway, so I am not sure why they think the average Joe on the street will see this as a vote winner for them – only the Pro EU elite in London seem to care about this issue, it isn’t one to die in the ditch over in my opinion.

The Government have already said that they will guarantee the rights of the EU citizens in the UK on 23 June last year on the proviso the EU guarantee the rights of British citizens in the EU – some countries have indicated they are willing to do a deal on that prior to the Article 50 negotiations but Merkel vetoed that and said they would not discuss it until Article 50 has been triggered.

A more interesting side story has been the dramas in Labour. Once again a three line whip was opposed, and once again a number of MPs refused to vote in favour of the bill. The imposition of the whip prompted Clive Lewis – shadow Business secretary – to resign from the front benches. This is seen as a blow to Corbyn as Clive Lewis has been a strong ally of Corbyn’s.

Diane Abbott was another one that was being watched by the media & political junkies. Abbott is a strong Corbyn supporter – they have known each other since the 1970’s – however, at the vote for the second reading Diane Abbott mysteriously disappeared and did not vote. This non-appearance last week was explained away as Abbott having had a migraine, (which if correct I can understand her not sticking around – they can be debilitating), but many have questioned this, as apparently she got sick just before the vote.

Diane Abbott is pro-Remain, her constituency voted Remain, and it is widely believed she wanted to vote against the Bill, but did not want to openly revolt against Corbyn – or put him in the position that he had to sack her. Last night she (allegedly) reluctantly voted for the Bill. And in a gossipy aside, it was reported in this morning’s papers that she told David Davis to F*** Off when he tried to give her a kiss in the Commons Bar last night.

There has been speculation that Corbyn will resign as leader, but Corbyn denied this on Breakfast this morning saying that the party is united. There is also speculation another leadership challenge will be mounted against Corbyn.

Below is the expected timetable for the Bill’s passage through the House of Lords.

Feb 9 (today): Peers start to table amendments
Feb 20-21: The Peers debate the Bill during its second reading, they are expected to vote through the legislation
Feb 27: The first of two days in committee. There are expected to be numerous attempts to amend the Bill – I outlined at least one attempt above, from the Lib Dems.
Mar 1: Second day of debates in committee. More amendments expected to be made and voted on.
Mar 7: Report stage and third reading. If p0assed without amendments it will go for Royal Assent, if not it goes back to the Commons for MPs to agree to the changes.

Nick Smith in Housing debate

Hapless Housing Minister Nick Smith with the opening speech in the Third reading of the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill last night (the Bill passed eventually after a lengthy debate).

Draft transcript:

Third Reading

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): I move, That the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill be now read a third time.

This amendment bill will get more houses built. This bill will get houses built more quickly, and it should be getting the full support of this Parliament. It will do so by ensuring a smooth transition to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

It will do so by allowing more land to be available for housing more quickly in other parts of New Zealand, and it will do so by providing certainty over the Crown land housing development programme.

The parties opposing this bill have shown they are far more interested in wallowing in the stories of hardship over housing than actually getting more rooves built over the heads of Kiwi families.

The greatest irony is that Labour has called for a state of emergency across New Zealand, over housing, but it opposed urgency in this House for the very bill that will make a difference.

Let us be clear about three things in respect of housing.

The first is on the demand side. It is at record levels, because New Zealand is doing well. Our economy is growing strongly, unemployment is low and falling, we are a safe and well-governed country, interest rates are at the lowest level in 60 years, and so housing demand is at record levels.

The second is that construction is booming. Statistics New Zealand has just reported the highest level of building activity ever in New Zealand, topping $18 billion in the last year. Residential building has grown nationally by 20 percent per annum for every one of the last 5 years.

I have checked the records all the way back to 1922, and there has never been such a period of long, sustained growth. Independent reports show we are on track for this boom to continue until 2021. In Auckland we are on schedule to build the equivalent of a Whangarei in Auckland in this term of Parliament, and another Whangarei in the next term of Parliament.

My third point is that land-use policy is the single most important public policy issue affecting housing supply and affordability. The Productivity Commission says so, Treasury says so, and the OECD says so.

We also know, from our own experience in Christchurch where we are using the special earthquake provision powers and freeing up land. We have a well-functioning market. Thousands of good, new homes, with three bedrooms, are available on the market at $450,000. We have got house price inflation in Christchurch of only 2 or 3 percent, and we have had rents in that market drop by 8 percent over the last year.

Let me turn to the detail of this bill. It will allow eight greenfield special housing areas (SHAs), totalling 762 hectares in Auckland, that are well advanced in the planning and design processes, to enable 7,900 homes to be built. This is significant. It amounts to $4 billion of additional housing investment that will be able to be facilitated and ensure it progresses.

The simple question for Parliament is this: do we want to send those seven developments, $4 billion of housing, back to square one?

Members on this side of the House say that no, we do not. Members opposite, who have voted against this bill, are voting to block those housing developments.

The bill also allows the extension for 3 years of the housing accords and special housing build in other parts of New Zealand. The original Act was very focused on Auckland, but the growth pressures are now being felt more widely.

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development will take time for councils to free up land. The national policy statement requires that to be done over 3 years, and so it makes sense for the SHAs to be able to be used in the interim, to be able to free up more land.

These measures are supported by Local Government New Zealand. I have received letters from a number of councils that want access to this flexible tool.

The second part of this bill is the part that Labour has got in a lather about. The amendment makes plain what is already in the 1955 Housing Act, that the Government can approve housing development schemes and sell the houses. It is what Government has been doing for years. It is what we are doing in Hobsonville, where over 1,000 houses have now been completed.

Ironically, it is what we have done in Weymouth, where Mr Little visited and said that we should be doing more of those types of schemes.

Labour has caused this huge commotion in the House, saying that these are very significant changes that affect people’s property rights. Let me read exactly what Treasury’s independent regulatory impact unit said on these changes, long before this controversy, in an email dated 3 October.

I will quote, word for word: “The minor avoidance of doubt provision in the Housing Act doesn’t need a regulatory impact statement. It is minor, and it doesn’t change any rights. It is simply a clarification of existing legislative intent.”

Let me quote it again: “It is minor, and it doesn’t change any rights.” So there it is, without political spin, straight from a Government official. It is why the Government is wanting to make the change. It is to provide the certainty for business.

We are wanting to get on and sign contracts for significant developments of land, and understandably, if we are going to get the best deal for the taxpayer and the most houses, we need to get certainty in the law.

If there is something that members on this side of the House understand, it is that certainty is everything for business, particularly when they are going to be investing tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in building the houses that this country needs.

People who are wanting to delay this minor clarification of the law are actually wanting to make it harder for the Government to get on and build houses on vacant public land. Remember, it is on these vacant blocks of public land that the Government is able to put quite tough requirements to ensure the houses that are being built are in the medium price range, and also to deliver at least 20 percent of social housing.

The greatest irony is this. For all the debate over the last 2 days, I have not heard a single cogent argument against any of the three provisions. Here is the irony. Labour members are out there, saying that Labour is going to build tens of thousands of houses, under its KiwiBuild policy, on vacant Crown land. Are they saying that when they have built those houses they are going to offer them to the former landowners and not to ordinary New Zealanders?

If Labour really believes its opposition to this bill, it will promise to repeal it. It will not because its members know in their heart of hearts it is the practical measures that are required to ensure this country gets on and builds as many houses as is practicably possible. This bill is a sensible measure.

It sits alongside our Resource Management Act reforms, the work to develop an urban development authority, changes to the Building Act, and changes to the Unit Titles Act, because there is not a single magic bullet to this housing challenge.

We need to do a whole lot of things well, and this bill is part of what will make the difference and ensure that we maintain that record growth of housing construction in New Zealand.

Psychoactive Substances Bill passed

The Psychoactive Substances Bill passed in Parliament yesterday by 119 votes to 1. Peter Dunne spoke on the bill:

I do not need to feign my delight this afternoon as the author and originator of this bill to see it finally passed into law.

It is a world first. It will put in place an environment in which these pernicious substances that are doing so much damage to our young people can be removed from the shelves immediately.

Many people will be saying: “This is long-overdue legislation. Let’s get it in place, let’s make our community safe for our kids, and let’s move forward.”, and I am with them on that.

Todd McLay: “No one will be allowed to sell psychoactive products unless it can be shown that those products pose no more than a low risk of harm.”

“…a very significant step to protect New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, from the harm caused by untested drugs and an unregulated market.”

Iain Lees-Galloway: “Our communities up and down New Zealand will be celebrating because this is the day that we legislate to get drugs out of dairies, and I have to say that it has been a long time coming.”

Clare Curran: “Thousands of New Zealanders are watching tonight, wanting this bill, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, to pass because it is a really important piece of legislation.”

Kevin Hague: “This bill is one that takes New Zealand a substantial step forward towards the kind of drug law reform that we need.”

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: “Submissions from throughout the country supported this bill, none more so than that of the Mayor of Timaru, who said this was a No. 1 problem in her community.”

BARBARA STEWART:It will provide greater transparency. It will improve the health of our New Zealanders, once the substances are proven to be safe.”

Dr JIAN YANG: “This Psychoactive Substances Bill is an excellent bill.”

KRIS FAAFOI: “This is an excellent bill for the community of Mana and also I want to praise the other principals in Porirua who at a meeting also raised concern. Many of them were actually primary school principals who were talking about the effects not just that some of the students had been displaying in their classrooms but unfortunately some of their parents. So today is a victory for those communities.”

Scott Simpson: “Today when this bill is passed communities up and down the countryside, and in Coromandel, will be safer and our youth will be better off for it.”

Full draft transcript:


Third Reading

Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Health):

I move, That the Psychoactive Substances Bill be now read a third time. Today it is my hope that we take a very significant step to protect New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, from the harm caused by untested drugs and an unregulated market. The Government’s position is clear, as I believe this House’s is.

No one will be allowed to sell psychoactive products unless it can be shown that those products pose no more than a low risk of harm. Passing this bill will ensure that these products cannot be sold to children, that they cannot be sold from dairies, and that there are robust controls on what is in them and how they can be marketed.

Normally, I would have 10 minutes for this debate, but as we go into the school holidays it is my concern that there are products there on our wharves that are going to flood the New Zealand market, to be used to create a black market, and to drop prices in supermarkets. I will not speak for a single moment longer in this House and put children’s lives at risk. I commend this bill to the House.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North):

This is a great day. Our communities up and down New Zealand will be celebrating because this is the day that we legislate to get drugs out of dairies, and I have to say that it has been a long time coming.

I am appalled by that Government over there, which has prioritised creating more opportunities to gamble and increasing the harm related to gambling ahead of this legislation, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is designed to reduce drug-related harm. That is a shocking indictment on that Government’s priorities, and it saddens me.

It saddens me that this excellent piece of legislation, which communities have been waiting for, which people working in the drug and alcohol treatment sector have been waiting for, and which, indeed, the people working in this industry who want to see a regulated, smart, cowboy-free industry have been waiting for for so very long. And once again—this has been the theme of this legislation and the way that this Government has managed this legislation—we are rushing it.

We are rushing one of the most worthwhile pieces of legislation that have appeared in the world of drug regulation in a very long time. This Government places such a low priority on reducing drug-related harm that it is rushing it in the last minute in the last hour before we go on a 2-week adjournment. It is an outrage. It is an outrage that the Government puts such a low priority on keeping our children safe that it is rushing this legislation. Every moment of this process has been rushed.

The Government left it for 2 long years after the Law Commission presented its recommendations. The Government brought this legislation to the House in February, and it sat on the Table for month after month after month, sitting way down on the Order Paper because there were other things that were more important to this Government than reducing the harm related to drugs. Then the Government made us rush the select committee process.

We could not hear all the submitters, and we did not have time to get everything right. Then the Associate Minister of Health Todd McClay presents amendments handwritten at the last minute of the Committee stage. And then we get to today. We are selling legislation to Skycity. Binding future Parliaments to not be able to address gambling-related harm is an issue of greater priority to the National Party than reducing drug-related harm.

Melissa Lee: Calm down.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: That Government should hang its head in shame. Melissa Lee wants me to drop my voice. I will not drop my voice. I am angry at you, Melissa Lee. I am angry at that Government because that Government does not have the interests of our communities at heart. That is why I am shouting Melissa Lee, because this could have been great legislation.

This could have been a marvellous step forward for drug regulation in New Zealand. This could have been the opportunity to not only get the drugs out of our dairies but also create for the first time a legal, regulated market designed to reduce the harm associated with drugs.

It will do that, but the attitude this Government has taken is just appalling. It has dithered. It has wasted time and here we are rushing this through right after that Government has voted to increase harm to our communities by allowing more gambling and selling off legislation to a corporation, outrageous.

I do support this legislation. I think it is a good bill. It has been a very long time coming. I am pleased that members around the House have seen through some of the distractions and the things which have divided us to eventually get to a piece of legislation that we can all support. Although this does do the job of getting the drugs out of dairies there are a few things that could have been done better.

One of those is to deal with the issue of possession. This is about creating a regulated market and ensuring that the manufacturers and sellers of high-risk substances get everything that they deserve, and that those who continue to flout the law get everything that they deserve. That is where we should be focusing our attention. Not on the young people who find themselves in possession of these substances.

It does nothing to advance the cause of this legislation to make the possession of an unapproved substance an offence, and it does nothing to fine those people. In fact it will be an absolutely unenforceable component of this legislation. So I hope that in the future we will see fit to decriminalise the possession of these substances.

The other thing I am concerned about is the new transition period that the Associate Minister of Health dumped on the Table at the very last minute.

The Minister who was not the originator of the bill, the Minister who took no part in the select committee process, the Minister who is a johnny-come-lately to this legislation, and who dumped at the very last minute a change to the transition period.

It is a transition period that was deliberately designed to avoid a black market, which I have noticed that the National Party have been throwing around today the idea that a black market might be created. The only thing that will create a black market is prohibition.

My fear is that because we did not have time to properly consider all the consequences and unintended consequences of the Minister’s amendment that what we may discover is that by reducing that transition period down to 3 months that a black market is precisely what the result will be. I am hoping that is not the case.

I am hoping that the Minister is right and that the manufacturers of substances that are up for approval will be able to prove within that 3 month period that they have made some steps towards initiating clinical trials, and that the Minister will then see fit to allow those substances to stay on the shelf because what is really important is that the low-risk substances do stay in the regulated legal market.

The last thing we want to do is create a black market by having effective prohibition being the result of this legislation. One of the aspects of this Psychoactive Substances Bill is a review after a maximum of 5 years. That is a good idea given that this is innovative and world-leading legislation. We need to have a review after 5 years to see if we have got it right.

There are a couple of things that I think are absolutely necessary in that review, if not before. The first is to consider the possibility of applying an excise tax to the substances. It is what we do with tobacco. It is what we do with alcohol. It is a good way of, one, raising revenue to fund the addiction services that may be needed to deal with the problems relating with these and other substances, and two, to use price as a demand-limiting control.

We failed to do that with the alcohol legislation. We do it very well with tobacco. I think it should be applied to these substances as well. But I appreciate that we need to have a look at the pricing points, and we need to look at what the appropriate way of using an excise tax is.

Finally, what I want to see is what the Law Commission actually originally envisaged, and that is a comprehensive review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is outdated. It is outmoded. It may have been appropriate in 1975 but it is not appropriate in 2013. In fact the Misuse of Drugs Act is doing more harm than good in the 21st century.

All we have done here is actually created a layer. So now we will have some high-risk substances that are legal, some high-risk substances that are illegal, some low-risk substances that are legal, and some low-risk substances that are illegal. If that sounds confusing to people, it is because it is. Our drug legislation is utterly confusing, and what we really need is better than this, more than this, a true review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. But for now because this bill will get the—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Independent—Ōhariu):

Given the exigencies of time my call will be a brief one.

I do not need to fain my delight this afternoon as the author and the originator of this bill to see it finally pass into law. It is a world first.

It is the creation of the regulated market that the member who angrily preceded me, Iain Lees-Galloway, referred to. It will put in place an environment within which these pernicious substances that are doing so much damage to our young people can be removed from the shelves immediately.

There are issues for the future relating to the breadth of its scope in terms of other issues, and also the issues that the member Iain Lees-Galloway raised relating to excise tax and the general treatment of these products moving forward, but I think do merit consideration. That is for another day.

What is important now is that this legislation is passed and is implemented, so that the temporary bans on various substances that I implemented over the last couple of years do not expire and we start to see these products come back on to the shelves.

Can I acknowledge the work of the current Associate Minister of Health and can I acknowledge the support of the House.

This is a good day for New Zealand communities, and that is something the previous speaker and I do agree on.

Many people will be saying: “This is long-overdue legislation. Let’s get it in place, let’s make our community safe for our kids, and let’s move forward.”, and I am with them on that.

CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South):

Thousands of New Zealanders are watching tonight, wanting this bill, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, to pass because it is a really important piece of legislation. It is about getting a horrible, toxic, poisonous set of drugs out of our dairies, out of our lives, and dealing to an issue that I think everyone in this House acknowledges is really important.

It is just such a contradiction to the previous piece of legislation, the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill. None of the Government members in this House today want to get up and talk about this important piece of legislation, but they wanted to speak about the last piece of legislation, which was about keeping another major problem in our community and making it worse.

So on the one hand we are trying to take out toxic, poisonous drugs from our dairies, and on the other hand we are increasing another toxic problem in our society—that is, problem gambling. Those members should be ashamed of that, and they should be ashamed that they did not take a conscience vote, a personal vote, on that issue. It is a conscience vote, and it just shows that the people across the House do not have a conscience.

This bill is important. I am proud to be speaking on it. I am proud to be part of a caucus that has worked really hard on this bill.

We have got some people on our side of the House who have worked really hard during the select committee process to make sure that this is a much better piece of legislation—Iain Lees-Galloway and Annette King being two of them—and who have made sure that we have made this bill a better bill. It is a better law that will go into our community and that will take these drugs out of the community.

I also want to commend the Greens for the amendment that they put forward on animal testing. We did support that amendment. We do not want these drugs to be tested on animals. National refused to give up animal testing, but we in Labour are proud of the fact that our MPs were able to get the Government to agree to changes to the bill to ensure that there were alternatives to animal testing—that alternatives exist and that it cannot be used in the evaluation of these substances—and although Mojo Mathers’ amendment did not pass, at least there will be some safeguards now around that animal testing.

I have received emails all day today from people about this bill, as well as emails—as, no doubt, has every member in this House—about the other bill that passed its first reading in the House before the debate on this bill. They are emails from people who are raising the issues and are talking about the increased harm that is happening as a result of the taking of these substances.

I am going to read to you one of those emails that I received this afternoon. It said:

“I have ongoing concerns with people who use these drugs and who have future access to them, increasing burdens on health care providers and patients suffering clinical effects related to psychosis withdrawal symptoms, which can prevail for weeks, and addiction. There has already been a noticeable increase over recent months, but will most likely increase.”

When I stood up in the Chamber in the Committee stage, I showed members a report from the National Poisons Centre on the number of calls that had been coming in in the last year on these substances.

I have got another table to hold up today, which shows the number of calls for June, in red. It shows that it has gone down very, very slightly from May, but there has been a huge increase in the last few months in the number of calls that have come into the National Poisons Centre about these psychoactive substances.

The reason for that may be related to the increased publicity around this bill, but health professionals are sending us warnings as politicians that we have to put in place legislation, but along with legislation comes the need for increased resources in our health sector to deal with the effects of these psychoactive substances, and in our mental health sector, and we also need to look at what is happening with the increase in crime related to the use of these substances.

I will just read to you the latest report that has come in. It says: “The rates of calls to the National Poison Centre have remained high”—and this is for June—“continuing trends since April 2013. Adverse symptoms reported in April and May, notably acute kidney injuries, seizures, and acute psychosis, have continued to occur during June, with a further observation of an emerging trend of delayed seizures that are increasingly difficult to control.”

These drugs are doing serious harm—harm that is not being seen done by other drugs. “Ongoing discussions and meetings with emergency departments, medical centres, and other health care providers also report increasing burdens on their services by users of these drugs. Rates of attending patients are continuing to rise—in particular, patients suffering addiction and withdrawal effects. With the banning of all present designer drugs in July, the National Poisons Centre anticipates this demand on health care services will continue to increase.”

It goes on to say: “The National Poisons Centre continues to be concerned by the rates of reported adverse effects following exposure to these analogues. Although the introduction of the new legislation this month will ban present designer drugs being legally sold, there will be ongoing burdens on health care providers, with patients suffering adverse psychiatric effects, which in some patients will be permanent, and issues centred on addiction and withdrawal syndrome.

Throughout the whole of the discussion on this bill, I have asked over and over again, as have a number of my colleagues—we ensured that it was mentioned in the commentary to this bill—where the comparable resources are that are going to be put from the health sector into the need for what is going to happen after these drugs are banned and what we are seeing right now.

The health professionals tell us that there is increasing need and that there are no more resources being put in. There is an increasing burden happening as a result of this.

I ask the question again, in the House today: where are the extra resources that will be put in? We support this bill. We know it is an important bill. We know that it has got a lot of measures in it that are changing the way that we are treating our attitude to drugs in this country. We are looking at it from a harm minimisation perspective, which is a healthy and constructive and positive thing to do.

I just want to quickly say that the purpose of going into a couple of those measures—and I know that my colleague Iain Lees-Galloway and other colleagues on the Health Committee worked hard on this, on changing parts of the legislation, particularly around the purpose, which now reads: “The purpose of this Act is to regulate the availability of psychoactive substances in New Zealand.”

This was what was originally said, but they added the words “to protect the health of, and minimise harm to, individuals who use psychoactive substances.” Those are such important words—the minimising of harm. It is moving the effect of drug taking into the health sector. We need to be looking more across the spectrum of the drugs that are being taken in New Zealand and the harm that is occurring and looking at it from the perspective of harm minimisation.

We need to be looking at other social harms that are occurring, such as problem gambling. This Parliament today could have done a brave thing and it could have addressed problem gambling as well as psychoactive substances. Instead, it has cancelled out, more or less, what we are achieving with psychoactive substances and is increasing problem gambling in New Zealand.


In the interests of ensuring that this bill, the Psychoactive Substances Bill, is passed today I am going to take a somewhat shorter call than I would otherwise have done.

This bill is one that takes New Zealand a substantial step forward towards the kind of drug law reform that we need.

It makes the emphasis on reducing harm and improving health—that, rather than criminal justice, being the point of the regulation. It places the emphasis very much on the supply chain for these substances rather than on the end user. It makes the regulatory response proportional to the risk that is associated with a particular substance.

Those are all good things. Those are all things that we need to apply to drugs, currently both legal and illegal, across the board. I look forward to the opportunity of it doing that.

It could have been a great bill. [Interruption] Not quite, Barbara.

It could have been a great bill, but there are three major problems that hold it back from that. I am disappointed that the Government has either not understood its own bill or has needed to appease different factions within its own camp, which has resulted in these problems.

One is the issue of animal testing, about which I—and colleagues across the House—have spoken, and I acknowledge John Banks’ particularly passionate support for that particular issue. The Green Party’s Supplementary Order Paper on the bill would have ensured the same level of protection for humans, but would have also resulted in protecting animals from harm, and it is a source of considerable regret that the House did not take the opportunity to ensure that that occurred.

The issue of possession was introduced almost at the last moment by the Government against the advice of the Ministry of Health. It was in contradiction of the evidence that we have seen in relation to the Misuse of Drugs Act and, indeed, the temporary prohibition notices that possession offences do not assist with the purpose of this bill—reducing harm and promoting health. What is more, as I demonstrated in the Committee stage, those possession offences that are in this bill are essentially not only more hassle than any benefit that they provide, if at all, but also they are entirely unworkable.

Finally, if I thought possession was last minute, actually this is last-second amendment of the bill by the Associate Minister of Health to drastically shorten the transition period for the bill.

As a result of that, the very careful balance that was struck by the Health Committee—between trying to move as quickly as possible to regulate these substances, in the way that I have described, and at the same time to ensure that the flood of substances that have been legal, but will not be legal under the new regime, does not result in an underground market for those substances—has been entirely overturned on the basis of the Minister attending a meeting in Invercargill.

I believe that that will come back to bite the Minister, come back to bite the Government, and I urge the Minister to try to find some way of ameliorating the problem that he has created. Thank you.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua):

It is a great pleasure to stand and support the third reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

Submissions from throughout the country supported this bill, none more so than that of the Mayor of Timaru, who said this was a No. 1 problem in her community. I want to finish by saying thank you to all those who constructively worked towards this bill. I commend it to the House.


I stand to take a call on behalf of New Zealand First on the Psychoactive Substances Bill. New Zealand First believes that ideally these products should have been banned. We are realistic and we know that this cannot and will not occur at this particular point. However, this bill is a very positive step forward from the situation that actually exists at this point in time.

We want this bill passed today. We are sick of seeing the damage and the harm that is created among our young people from these particular drugs. It is ironic that the manufacturers, the importers, and the dairies are getting wealthier and wealthier at the expense of young people’s health right here in New Zealand. We have to congratulate those dairies who acted before this bill actually came into the House and stopped the sale of these substances.

Of course, we have to recognise the Waikato of Pūtāruru that has actually banned synthetic highs from its town—so well done, Pūtāruru.

There is a whole range of regulations that will stop the manufacturers from their merry trip around with these particular drugs.

We want the bill passed. It will provide greater transparency. It will improve the health of our New Zealanders, once the substances are proven to be safe. We want young people to be safe. We care for our young people. These substances have basically been an outrageous assault on our young people, which we in this House have let it happen here, so this is an important step forward with this particular bill.

New Zealand First supports it.

Dr JIAN YANG (National):

This Psychoactive Substances Bill is an excellent bill. I commend it to the House. Thanks.

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): Well, I do have to agree with the one thing that that member, Jian Yang, said, that this Psychoactive Substances Bill is an excellent bill.

Hon Member: It was only one.

KRIS FAAFOI: It was just that one thing.

Many months ago I went to a meeting in my electorate and met the principal of Bishop Viard College, a good Catholic college in my electorate.

Teresa Cargo, the principal there, highlighted her concern about synthetic cannabis and the awful effects that it was having in her classrooms. She spoke of the students who were constantly stoned under the effect of—I think it was, at this stage— K2, and also her concerns about the approaches that were being made to the students.

Many of her students were not going to the local dairies or the tobacconists to buy their K2; they were actually being approached in the streets, under the canopies in the centre of Porirua, by people on the street selling K2 to them, targeting young students in uniform, and she was very concerned about this.

This is an excellent bill for the community of Mana and also I want to praise the other principals in Porirua who at a meeting also raised concern. Many of them were actually primary school principals who were talking about the effects not just that some of the students had been displaying in their classrooms but unfortunately some of their parents. So today is a victory for those communities.

I would also like to praise the work of the local Porirua city councillor, Wayne Poutoa, who runs the Streets Ahead 237 scheme in Porirua. He is another person, another leader in my community, who came forward and proactively came to me and said: “Look, we have got some kids, some teenagers who are vulnerable. He was very concerned about the effects that this synthetic cannabis was having on some of the young people that he was looking after.

Teresa Cargo, Wayne Poutoa, and Paul Basham, the local area commander for the Kapiti-Mana region were all three leaders of the Porirua community who came together and wanted this House to do something swiftly about synthetic cannabis. That is why today is a victory for many communities around the country.

I also pay tribute to some of what I call responsible retailers in the Porirua area, who responded to a letter that I sent out asking them not to sell synthetic cannabis any more. They were perfectly within their legal rights to do so, but because of the concern that was obviously there in the community that I have mentioned before, they took a proactive step and took the product off their shelf.

To those dairy owners who did not, and willingly did not, I think they should have a good look at themselves. Obviously they were legally entitled to do this, but they were well aware of the harm that was being done in our communities and they actively kept selling synthetic cannabis. One good thing out of this bill is that they will no longer be able to do that.

Those concerned people in our communities have been waiting a fair amount of time to have this bill passed. As the member previously said, this is an excellent bill, but there are some criticisms about how this bill has gone through the House, that it has taken far too long. The recommendations out of the Law Commission report that basically were the base of this bill were presented to this Parliament about 2½ years ago. We had to wait 2½ years for this Government to prioritise, for the communities to get up in arms, for all these young people to have all these bad effects, to have the disruption to classrooms, to have the disruptions and the rubbish in our streets and our homes for us to take some serious action.

So although I do want to praise Peter Dunne, the Minister who was originally responsible for this bill, there also has to be some scepticism as to why this was not given higher priority, given some of the other bills that this Government prioritised ahead of the Psychoactive Substances Bill. This bill languished on the Order Paper for well over 12 months when this Government could have done something much sooner to take this stuff off the streets.

Looking around the House, I am pretty sure that everyone in this House is supporting this bill, but we have had to wait so long for us to get—[Interruption] OK, maybe I will stand corrected—to where we are. I praise MPs right around the House who have taken action—

Dr Paul Hutchison: Worked constructively.

KRIS FAAFOI: —and constructive action, I thank Dr Paul Hutchison, the chair of the Health Committee. And well done to the Health Committee as well, who have taken proactive action within their own communities like I did to make sure that before this legislation was passed we did as much to reduce the harm especially to our youngsters in our communities. I think that showed leadership, not just in this House, but also that we were listening to our communities to make sure they were much, much safer.

I also heap praise, as I already have locally with my local police force, but to police right around the country. I know, certainly listening to public debate, that they have been working hard, and I guess there may have been a bit of sense of frustration on their behalf that this law had not been passed sooner. But they were dealing with the rough end of the stick here, because this House had not done something sooner. They were dealing with the crime that was being caused, they were dealing with the disruption, and, unfortunately, some violence amongst families, because people were taking this drug.

You should not be able to walk into a dairy in this country and legally buy something that gets you high—that should not be fine. I think that if there is a criticism from the public of this House it is that this House should have some done something much, much faster.

As you heard from my colleague Clare Curran, the National Poisons Centre has had a huge spike in requests for help in terms of synthetic cannabis. If that is not a sign for this House that something should have happened much, much sooner, I do not know what we would need to see.

This is a good day. It is a victory for our communities right around the country, many of whom have taken positive action and protested outside their local dairies who have been selling it. Many have asked for a responsible retailing regime within their own communities to make sure that across the board we can identify those retailers who have taken a responsible action and said it is not OK to sell this rubbish in our communities. I do want to also back up a point Clare Curran made.

We also need to make sure that there are the resources within our communities to follow up this law, and if there is one criticism or one point I do want to make it is that police are under so much pressure at the moment with resources that they need to be given the backing to make sure they can go out and give effect to this legislation that we are passing today. Paul Hutchison made an interjection earlier—it was not heckling—and I would like to pay tribute to the Health Committee.

Hon Trevor Mallard: It was shocking that they didn’t hear the submissions.

KRIS FAAFOI: I have not finished yet. Mr Hutchison was member of the Health Committee in the previous Parliament and he has always acted with dignity. I thank the Health Committee for its work and for making sure that most of the submissions were listened to.

I know there is some scepticism as to why some submissions around animal testing were not heard, and that is something that this side of the House is very disappointed about. This bill is a victory for communities. They have put up with a fair bit of rubbish, but today we are getting through this House a piece of legislation that will, hopefully, stop that rubbish from being in our streets, our schools, and our homes.

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel):

As a member of the Health Committee I am very pleased to take a very brief call on the third reading of the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

Others have congratulated the originator of the bill, Peter Dunne, the Associate Minister of Health Todd McClay, and, of course, the chairman of the select committee, Paul Hutchison.

Today when this bill is passed communities up and down the countryside, and in Coromandel, will be safer and our youth will be better off for it.

This is a very good bill and I commend it to the House.

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