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Rod Donald Speech To ALCP Conference

Speech Notes

1999 Conference of Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

Rod Donald, Green Party Co-Leader

3.00pm, 26 June 1999

44 Cable Street, Wellington

Thanks for the opportunity to address your conference today. The Green Party and the ALCP have a common cause. We both want to change the law on cannabis.
Our policy is straightforward and is based on the concept of harm minimisation. For us this means reducing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use to the community and to the individual user.

We don’t support the legalisation of the cannabis industry or the commercial production of the plant, but we do believe possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for personal use by adults should not be a crime. Our position goes beyond mere decriminalisation, which would still leave cannabis an offence akin to a parking ticket.

Cannabis products would also be available for prescription by registered medical practitioners and specialists for severely ill patients.
Smoking cannabis and growing a small number of plants is a victimless crime. The tens of millions of dollars which the police and the courts currently spend on catching and prosecuting people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens is a waste of money.

Keeping cannabis illegal also supports a thriving black market industry which is based around fear, intimidation and violence. One of the reasons I strongly support legalisation of cannabis is because such a common-sense move would destroy the black market. It would also remove the daring and glamorous image which is created by its illegal status.

The money saved by changing the law would be more constructively allocated to drug education campaigns and to meeting the health needs of the small number of people who need treatment. Education programmes would be realistic about the hazards of using cannabis, including the effects of both short and long term chronic use and the use of cannabis and alcohol together. While accepting individual lifestyle choices, our education programme would promote a drug-free lifestyle as the healthiest option.

Supplying cannabis to children should and would remain a serious offence. It will also remain an offence to drive while under the influence of cannabis. Research should be conducted to determine what, if any, level of cannabis intoxication would not adversely affect drivers’ ability and to develop an accurate road test that can measure that level. Cannabis smoking would be included in the Smokefree Environments Act, and hence would be banned in places where tobacco smoking is banned.

The effects of our policy would be carefully monitored for two years. At the end of this period a public review of all drug laws would take place.
Quite separately from the cannabis issue is the current ridiculous restriction on the cultivation of industrial hemp in New Zealand. I have worked diligently over the last 18 months to move the Government on this issue, so far without success.

This is in spite of building a coalition in support of change which not only includes the Hemp Industries Association and the president of Local Government New Zealand, but also the Grains Council of Federated Farmers. We have recently had productive meetings with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Police, only to be rebuffed by the Associate Minister of Health, Tuariki Delamere, well known for his intimate grasp of cannabis-related issues.
When you compare the Green Party position on cannabis to the policy of the ALCP, you can see that we match four of your six policy points exactly, and probably support the other two, although we have not discussed either expunging criminal records or establishing an Alcohol, Cannabis and Tobacco Council.
The bottom line is, however, that we would legalise cannabis for personal use, we would allow people to grow a small number of plants in their own back yard, we would improve access to sensible and effective education, and we would encourage the establishment of a hemp industry in New Zealand.

Therefore, I put it to you that the best way you can advance your cause at this year’s general election is to operate as a pressure group rather than a political party. In other words, to put it bluntly, I’m urging you not to stand candidates because every party vote you win is one less party vote which could propel the Green Party into the next coalition government where we would be in a position to implement our policy and largely achieve yours at the same time.

I’m not asking your members to join the Green Party, although I know a number have and at least one is standing as a candidate. I’m not even asking you to endorse us at the exclusion of all other parties. I’m simply suggesting that you weigh up the policies of all the parties and the positions of individual candidates and to encourage supporters of cannabis law reform to vote for the candidates and parties which support your policies.

It’s a tough call to ask you not to stand, but I suggest a close look at your poll ratings will help determine where you can be most effective. In the last four TV1 Colmar-Brunton polls, which span most of this year, you have rated 0.4%, 0.1%, 0.1%, and this week, zero percent. While your ratings are trending downwards the Green Party’s ratings are trending upwards, to 1.4% in the same poll this week.

If we win Coromandel, and we believe we will, then even that rating would give us two MPs in the next parliament. If we reach the level of support we gained in the Taranaki by-election, which I regard as our base line support, we will have three MPs.

I remain confident that we will actually cross the 5% threshold both on the strength of our policies and by convincing voters that their party vote will count for The Greens because we have the Coromandel as a backstop to guarantee us seats in parliament.

However many seats we win, we intend to be part of a Labour-led government and would make cannabis law reform one of our key coalition negotiating issues. To that end, we are pleased to see Labour is prepared to conduct an enquiry into legalising cannabis, so at least they are not opposed to reform, but their position also highlights the contrast between their conservative stance and our rational position on legalisation.

I wish you well in deciding what will be the most effective strategy for your organisation and look forward to your questions and comments.

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