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Labour would consider a referendum on decriminalising cannabis

By aemetha, Aug 12, 2016 | | |
  1. aemetha
    Labour leader Andrew Little has downplayed his comments that the party could hold a referendum on decriminalising cannabis if in Government.

    Little was asked if Labour would decriminalise cannabis during an interview on Victoria University student radio station Salient FM. "We will look at holding a referendum about it... we want to make sure there is a good information campaign about it, and have a referendum about it and let people decide," he said. When asked about the comments by Newshub today, Little said holding a referendum was possible, but down-played the likelihood, saying it was "simply not a priority" for Labour.

    Decriminalising cannabis would mean possession would remain an offence but be punishable by a step such as a fine, with no criminal record.

    In May, Little confirmed Labour would legislate to make medicinal cannabis more accessible "pretty quickly" after taking office. Labour MP Damien O'Connor has lodged a member's bill that would make it easier for patients to access medicinal cannabis products. The mouth spray Sativex is currently the only form of medicinal cannabis currently available in New Zealand, but is not funded by Pharmac and costs about $1300 a month. Prescriptions are approved by the Ministry of Health. Other products must be approved by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

    O'Connor's bill would mean the minister would not be able to prevent the supply and administration of cannabis products to a person considered by a medical practitioner to be in the final stages of a terminal illness, or in significant pain or impairment from a permanent condition.

    On the question of cannabis law reform, Dunne told the Herald that the Government had been very clear on its position - that leaf cannabis remains illegal. However, an adjustment of how severely people are dealt with for drug offences is possible. As part of the 2015-2020 National Drug Policy, launched in August last year, the Government is currently reviewing the regulation of drug utensils, including the effectiveness of the associated penalty regime. And next year a review of the penalty and offence regime for personal possession of drugs will follow.

    Dunne has said that three words - compassion, innovation and proportion - were of the utmost importance when developing the National Drug Policy. Speaking at the launch of the policy, Dunne said the Ministry of Health would work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make sure that drug classification decisions were focused on harm. "The laws we make need to be reasonable, and it is crucial that our enforcement response is proportionate."

    A 2011 review of the Misuse of Drugs Act by the Law Commission recommended that the whole act be replaced, but Dunne has said changes could instead be made within the boundaries of the current law.

    The National Drug Policy has been hailed by the NZ Drug Foundation as a subtle shift towards treating the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue - meaning prevention, education and treatment should take priority over the criminal justice approach.

    Police are already employing practices such as pre-charge warnings to divert low-level drug offenders away from the criminal justice system, the foundation says, but this was applied unevenly.

    11 August 2016
    Nicholas Jones
    Photo / Ben Fraser.
    The New Zealand Herald


  1. aemetha
    High times getting Labour down?

    Labour deputy leader Annette King has hit back against media coverage of her party's stance on marijuana use.

    Earlier this week, leader Andrew Little told Wellington student radio station Salient FM Labour would hold a referendum on decriminalising marijuana. But when asked about it by Newshub on Thursday, he asked to see the transcript of what he had told Salient, then said it was "not a priority" and he had "no commitment" to pushing for one.

    Speaking to Paul Henry on Friday morning, National MP Paula Bennett said Mr Little was saying one thing to one audience, and something else to another. "Maybe he was on [marijuana] when he was talking on there because he was all over the place," said Ms Bennett.

    Ms King, also appearing on Paul Henry, said it was nothing compared to the "constant backdowns, mistakes and errors our Prime Minister makes". "We've got a Prime Minister who still can't remember whether he was for or against the Springboks tour, and he leads our country. "Every week in Parliament... he has to backtrack and make up something else. Don't give me this story that Andrew Little didn't do something right on student radio. It's a storm in a teacup." She blamed the negative coverage on Labour's improving poll ratings. "We went up in the polls this week - time to knock Labour down."

    Poll: John Key could lose grip on power

    Labour did indeed go up in the polls - by 1.4 percent to 32.7. National meanwhile dropped 1.9 percent. But Ms Bennett's not worried. "We're within the range of where we have been the past three elections."

    12 August 2016
    Dan Satherley
  2. aemetha
    NZ First are on their own calling for a referendum on decriminalising cannabis

    [IMGL="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51744&stc=1&d=1471289009[/IMGL]The majority of Kiwis are calling for cannabis to be decriminalised but there's almost no appetite for a referendum from political leaders.

    Prime Minister John Key says a referendum on decriminalising cannabis isn't on the Government agenda and if Labour were to win in 2017, it wouldn't be on theirs either. Key said while it's interesting to have a poll on decriminalising cannabis - ultimately it would lead to cannabis stores on the street corner. "You show me the communities who want to put up their hand and say I want a tinny house at the end of my street."

    The only party supporting putting the question to the public is NZ First - who has a long standing position to use referendums to decide controversial issues.

    Labour leader Andrew Little says he personally doesn't think cannabis decriminalisation would work as a policy and the party has no plans to carry one out if in Government.

    This won't be music to the Green Party's ears who don't think a referendum is needed but instead want a Government bill on legalising cannabis, which would provide an opportunity for public submissions. Greens health spokesman Kevin Hague said a recent poll that revealed 64 per cent of Kiwis thought personal possession of a small amount of cannabis should be either decriminalised or legal, showed it was time to have a proper debate on the issue. "I'm looking forward to the day the Green Party is part of a Government and we'll be advocating for that." The Greens think decriminalisation, which keeps cannabis illegal but swaps criminal convictions for civil penalties, is too confusing and they're proposing the legalisation of cannabis.

    However, Little said legalisation isn't an option for Labour and a referendum on decriminalisation isn't on the table either. "We've been clear about our priorities, and actually I don't think the Greens will even disagree that the types of priorities we're talking about are their priorities too. We can have a talk about it but what it will come down to are what the priorities are now."

    Government support partners, UnitedFuture and ACT don't favour a referendum on the issue. If there was a citizen-initiated referendum, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said he wouldn't oppose it but "it's not a priority".

    ACT leader David Seymour said referendums are a "cop out" and he can't recall any problem in the country ever being solved through the public process. "What the polls show is while there's a lot of sympathy for medicinal marijuana, there's actually not a lot of sympathy for anything else in terms of reform," he said.

    Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says her party supports broadening access to medicinal cannabis and would like to see a "wider debate" on decriminalisation. She wouldn't be drawn on a referendum for decriminalisation until she discussed it with the rest of the party. "Personally I'm not sure a referendum would be that helpful. It's pretty polarising one way or the other and I think the discussion is what's needed rather than putting everyone into a corner."

    Peters said holding referendums is a much better process than giving MPs, "many who are disconnected from how the public feels," the power to decide.

    15 August 2016
    Photo: Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ
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