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MPs “Chicken” Over Cannabis Law Review

The Mild Green faction of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party is losing patience with unaccounted delays in NZ’s promised cannabis law review. They say the Labour-led government is courting punishment in the polls for chickening out on the marijuana issue.

Questions have been raised over apparent stalling of Parliament’s “Decriminalisation” Inquiry into Cannabis Related Health Strategies. According to Labour’s Christchurch Central M.P. Tim Barnett, a majority of the 700 public submissions received by the Health Select Committee in February are in favour of liberalisation.

The legislative implication is obvious - and one would think, deserving of expeditious resolution.

Mr Barnett spoke at Saturday’s international May 5th J-Day rally in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, attended by three hundred or so reform supporters. The M.P. said that Government had made good progress over the last year, but that supporters must be patient because the change would realistically take another 2 or 3 years - and was likely to become a key debate in the next election. “The public needed convincing that a law change would be effective in reducing consumption rates”, he said.

Ministerial cannabis review papers, however, specify that “harm minimisation” comprises the actual criteria for reform, not “use reduction”. An official paper for the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy states explicitly that any increase in use following liberalisation may be offset by such factors as a reduction in criminality and criminal activity on the black market. (obtained from Health Minister Annette King by NORML under Official Information Act, Aug. 2000)

A serious flaw in Government’s public methodology is thus evident, say the Mild Greens. In outwardly maintaining the very same fraudulent, unbalanced policy standards of the previous government, Labour and Alliance’s social credibility is rapidly going up in smoke.

“Why, for example, is corrections minister Matt Robson building unwelcome new Youth Justice facilities, when cannabis prohibition is at very least a factor in, and in all probability at the very root of, problematic behaviors amongst New Zealand’s youth population?”

“It appears Robson and his fellow ministers would rather encourage institutionalised criminality, than acknowledge the failure of prohibition, and condemn this obvious and avoidable cause of crime and alienation from rule of law.”

It is now two and a half years since the National Party-led Health committee, following an exhaustive inquiry into the Mental Health Effects of Cannabis, asked that Government “review the appropriateness of existing policy on cannabis, and its use, and reconsider the legal status”. It is three long months to the day since public submissions closed on the new Parliament’s follow-up inquiry. Yet last week, Health committee chair Judy Keall revealed that the Health Committee had yet to set a date for the first public hearing.

As the delay in processing cannabis continues, even the Green Party of Aotearoa seems half-hearted about setting the cannabis record straight. It is difficult therefore to be excited about Nandor’s “clean slate” bill, or more recently his bid to declassify “low THC” hemp from the Misuse of Drugs schedules.

In submitting the bills, the Green Party, like the Government, has distanced itself from the reality of “high THC” activity in New Zealand.

It also appears hypocritical for the Greens to be leaving hemp/cannabis reform advocacy almost exclusively in the hands of their Rastafari justice spokesperson. Prohibition affects all areas of peace, justice, health, education, race relations, civil rights, law and order, crime-reduction, prisons, foreign relations, trade, bio-security, disarmament, energy, transport, waste reduction, conservation, climate change, animal rights, organic farming, employment, culture, community relations, local government and eco-social equity.

While humanity is excluded from access to proper and healthy uses of the world’s most useful natural bio-resource, the Green Party’s pitiful absence of intersectorial advocacy against the WAR on DRUGS is allowing Labour to trivialise the issue - in a callous way reminiscent of the previous administration.

Leader of the House, Michael Cullen, was heard to interject off-microphone during question time in the House last Thursday, that Parliament’s Cannabis Inquiry would commence “after smoko break”...

In the absence of any sign of cannabis conscientiousness in Parliament, Blair Anderson of the Mild Greens will this week present to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. The committee is investigating improvements in New Zealand’s democratic processes, under the Electoral Amendment (No 2) Bill.

Anderson is arguing that the 5% threshold under MMP serves no valid purpose, other than ensuring that there is a flow of votes towards established parties, effectively slanting Parliament towards the majority rule style of FPP governance. The “threshold effect” feeds a situation under which media-polls guide an unknown percentage of the public into “tactical voting”, for fear of wasting their vote.

And as a result of the arbitrary cut off of 5%, true voter sentiment for cannabis reform has been misappropriated to parties too embarrassed to talk about marijuana. Cannabis continues to slip through the cracks, and the social order with it.

The Mild Greens believe that while the debate on decriminalising cannabis use clearly contributed to the outcome of the November 1999 election, and the nailing of the prohibitionist National party, Cannabis Party support was unfairly eroded (both initially in 1996 [1.7%], and further in 1999 [1.3%]) by the threshold effect.

Ironically, at last year’s J-Day protest, Green co-leader Rod Donald admonished Cannabis Party voters, saying that if the 1.3% of ALCP voters had voted Greens, his party would have had an additional M.P. in the house “fighting for cannabis law reform”.... Despite a million dollars in collective Green party M.P. salaries since the election, no such fight is evident.

The Mild Greens say that while resolving the cannabis debate - and liberating New Zealanders from the root of all evil - is their sole priority, the adverse electoral system is at least partially responsible for the elected Parliament’s slowness in delivering security and harmony to the people.

Anderson has an uphill battle in getting Parliament and media to discuss the insidious anti-democratic effect of the 5% threshold. Unfortunately, allowing MP’s to decide on what system best ensures their re-election, is rather too much like giving the job of investigating complaints against the Police, to the offender’s fellow officers.

Meanwhile, as evidenced at J-Day in Christchurch, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party is believed to be again mobilising against the rotten core of New Zealand politics, and making contingency plans for the 2002 campaign.

According to every principle this country stands on, decriminalisation is the peoples’ right and expectation, and controlled cannabis cultivation and consumption must therefore be allowed.

“Get on with our law review, you cads, or face the consequences”, say the Mild Greens.


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