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Brash should allow free vote/Goff should read Bill

20 July 2005

Brash should allow free vote, Goff & co should read the Bill

Don Brash should assure New Zealanders that the National Caucus will be allowed a conscience vote on the Cannabis Infringement Bill if it comes before Parliament, Green MP Nandor Tanczos says.

National Families Spokesperson Judith Collins yesterday issued a statement saying that her Party opposes the Bill, although her criticisms of it seemed to bear no relation to its actual content.

"Issues such as this are traditionally a conscience vote. It is draconian for that to be removed from National MPs by an off-the-cuff comment from someone who clearly hasn't even read the Bill," Nandor says.

The Greens' Drug Law Reform Spokesperson says Don Brash should clarify whether National MPs will be whipped, as the media has speculated, and where he personally stands on the Prohibition issue.

"National claims to want the Government out of people's lives, so you'd think it would support my Bill for their own policy reasons. The Party should at least allow its MPs a conscience vote, as I suspect the more libertarian-inclined Nats may have a different view from the social Tories in their ranks."

Nandor is also taking a swipe at other MPs, including Phil Goff, who have sounded off against the Bill, saying that they should at least read it and the evidence supporting it before jumping to conclusions.

"When MPs say they won't vote for anything that increases the use of cannabis, that doesn't stop them voting for this Bill. The evidence is very clear.

"Mr Goff says that Labour won't legalise cannabis. Well, this is a long way from that. It is an instant fines regime - partial decriminalisation similar to the system South Australia and the ACT have had for a number of years."

Nandor is calling on Mr Goff and others to read the evaluations of the Australian experience, which clearly show that an instant fines approach does not increase cannabis use but does reduce the social problems caused by criminalising cannabis users.

"Of course some people oppose the Bill simply because it comes from me. They need to grow up and start thinking about what's best for New Zealand, rather than their own ego."


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