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Toke the Vote 2014: NORML’s guide to NZ cannabis policies

Toke the Vote 2014: NORML’s guide to NZ Political Party cannabis policies

27 August 2014

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand Inc.

NORML’s policy, renewed at our recent national conference, is to encourage supporters to vote for parties and candidates who will work to reform our cannabis laws.

On the same day the NZ Herald-Digipoll shows an overwhelming 79% support for cannabis law reform - but a lack of political will - NORML has produced this guide to help New Zealanders decide which party would do the most to end our insane war on cannabis users.

"As well as the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, indications so far are that ALL centre-left parties (Labour, Greens, and Internet MANA) support making cannabis a health issue, not a crime, and allowing safe legal access to medicinal cannabis," said Chris Fowlie, President of NORML New Zealand Inc. "However at this stage, only the ALCP explicitly supports a legal adults-only market for cannabis."

"New Zealand's 400,000 cannabis consumers of voting age can play a huge role in this election," said Mr Fowlie. "The current government made it by only 40,000 votes, and for its core policies like asset sales, the government had a majority of just one vote in Parliament."

"A relatively small number of cannabis consumers could therefore decide the outcome of the election, if they vote strategically," he said.

This table presents a summary of how the parties stack up against our three core policy goals. See below for more information including links to party policies and public statements.

PARTYMake cannabis a health

issue, not a crime

Safe legal access to

medicinal cannabis

Regulated & taxed

adults-only market

Aotearoa Legalise

Cannabis Party


How did we work out this table?

NORML is contacting all candidates and parties so we can let you know where they stand. We have also scoured the internet for quotes and policy positions from party leaders and relevant spokespeople. We then assessed their declared positions against our three core policy goals:

• Make cannabis use a health issue, not a crime.

• Allow safe, legal, access to medicinal cannabis.

• A regulated and taxed adults-only market for low risk drugs including cannabis.

NORML’s guide to the cannabis policies of political parties running in the 2014 New Zealand general election

Act Party

• A health issue, not a crime: UNKNOWN

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: UNKNOWN (Act M.P.s voted for and against the Green’s medical cannabis bill)

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: UNKNOWN

“We would expect legislation relating to abortion to be a conscience vote in parliament.”

Source: Statement provided to Vote Compass. See more here.

“The ACT Party has no policy on that. We expect it would be addressed by a conscious vote in Parliament.” – Jamie Whyte

Source: NZ Herald

“ACT’s current leader Jamie Whyte has opted not to make it official party policy.”

Source: Legal pot a ‘net positive’ for society – US expert – TV3

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

• A health issue, not a crime: YES

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: YES

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: YES

The possession, cultivation and use of pure cannabis and hemp products be free from prosecution.

Provision be made to establish regulated R18 cannabis commerce, like alcohol and tobacco, but with no promotional aspects.

Make provision for expungement of all cannabis convictions.

Provision be made to establish therapeutic (medicinal) applications of cannabis.

Full-scale cannabis-hemp production and utilisation be enabled. A high priority be given for the local production of low cost biofuels from cannabis biomass.

Source: www.alcp.org.nz


• A health issue, not a crime: NO

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: NO

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: NO

The Conservative Party’s 2014 election slogan is “Tougher laws for criminals”.

“Absolutely opposed. We need to realise that drugs in our society do so much harm, and we don’t see legalisation in any form or decriminalisation working for New Zealand society.” – Colin Craig

Source: NZ Herald

The Conservative Party leader also says he’s not a fan of legal highs, but doesn’t support decriminalising natural alternatives which he sees as a gateway to harder drugs. “I believe cannabis is less harmful but I don’t think it should be legal. About 52% of smokers do need psychiatric treatment at some stage. And they’re not paying for that, the state is.”

Source: Colin Craig eyes National deal – TV3

Green Party

• A health issue, not a crime: YES

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: YES

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: MAYBE

The Green Party will eliminate penalties for personal cannabis use for people aged 18 years and over. Introduce a legal age limit of 18 years for personal cannabis use (this is consistent with alcohol). Those under 18 found in possession of cannabis would be treated in a way that is consistent with the Government’s 2002 Youth Development Strategy.

Define in law the limits on growing cannabis for personal use.

Ensure it remains an offence to drive while under the influence of cannabis.

Ensure that cannabis smoking is covered in the Smokefree Environments Act.

Commercial cultivation and trading of marijuana for profit would remain illegal, and areas currently relying on large scale illegal cultivation for their income will be assisted in making a transition to other work.

Enable registered medical practitioners and specialists to prescribe cannabis products for severely ill patients.

Source: Drug Law Reform Policy – Towards a Harm Reduction Model

“The Green Party says it will push for decriminalising marijuana during any post-election negotiations with Labour – but also made it clear it was not a do-or-die bottom line.”

Source: Green Party to push for cannabis decriminalisation – NZ Herald

“Our party supports decriminalisation of cannabis. It’s not a priority for this election campaign but it has been a long-standing policy of ours.” – Metiria Turei

Source: NZ Herald

Internet Party

• A health issue, not a crime: YES

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: YES

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: UNKNOWN

Internet Party leader Laila Harre wants cannabis to be decriminalised. Ms Harre says it’s her personal view and the Internet Party itself is yet to finalise its policy on the issue. However, she says the party has today put the issue up for discussion on a new online policy development platform that allows members to raise ideas and debate policy. Ms Harre, who was announced last week as the Internet Party leader, says cannabis should be a health issue, not a criminal one.

Source: Internet Party leader Laila Harre wants cannabis decriminalised – ONE News, 4 June 2014

Internet Party Policy Incubator

Labour Party

• A health issue, not a crime: YES

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: MAYBE

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: MAYBE (putting cannabis in the Psychoactive Substances Act has widespread support among Labour M.P.s)

“Labour considers drug use and addiction to be a health matter not a criminal justice matter… Labour supports further investigation into the medicinal use of cannabis. We believe the current prescribing regime for pharmaceutical derivatives of cannabis, such as Sativex, is unnecessarily restrictive as is the cost since Pharmac does not currently subsidise this medicine.”

Source: Emails sent to safer.org.nz by Grant Robertson and Jacinda Adern

“Labour broadly supports the recommendations of the Law Commission report Controlling and regulating drugs: A review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Labour in Government will publish a full response to the report, something National has failed to do, and we will replace the Misuse of Drugs Act with modern legislation based on the Law Commission recommendations.”

Source: Labour MPs Phil Twyford and Annette King

MP Iain Lees-Galloway wants Parliament to consider decriminalising cannabis while discussing legislation to regulate legal highs. “What we know is that prohibition causes more harm than good”

Source: MP: ‘Revisit drug laws’ – Manawatu Standard

“Labour treats the legalisation or decriminalisation of marijuana as a conscience vote. I do not feel that Parliament has the will to change the law at the present time.”

Source: Labour leader David Cunliffe

“I’m not in favour of decriminalisation but I would be prepared to look at seeing personal use as a summary offence rather than a major offence.” – David Cunliffe

Source: NZ Herald

Maori Party

• A health issue, not a crime: MAYBE

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: YES (although Maori Party M.P.s voted against the Green’s medical cannabis bill)

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: NO

The Ma-ori Party has always believed that if we, as a nation, are truly committed to wha-nau ora, we must address the social hazards that create such havoc on our health such as tobacco and cannabis smoking.

Source: Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill — First Reading

“Decriminalising yes, legalising no. We’ve talked about the notion around giving consideration to medicinal benefits for some. We think there’s a little bit more work to be done on that, and there would need to be some really strict conditions on a case by case basis if we did go down that way. More discussion for that, as we haven’t got a policy per se on it.” -Te Ururoa Flavell

Source: NZ Herald

Mana Movement

• A health issue, not a crime: MAYBE

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: YES

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: UNKNOWN

“The Mana Party is softening its stance on marijuana and will support its decriminalisation”

Source: Mana supports decriminalising marijuana – stuff.co.nz

“Support the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes when made available under prescription from a health professional” – Policy adopted at 2014 AGM.

Source: www.mana.net.nz

“Our policy is to support the medicinal use of cannabis. We have not yet got to the point of considering where we might go with decriminalisation.” – Hone Harawira

Source: NZ Herald

National Party

• A health issue, not a crime: NO

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: NO

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: NO

The National-led Government has no plans to change the current law around marijuana use, or any other drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Source: Salient

“I don’t support it. The reason for that is even though I know a lot of people use cannabis, in my view encouraging drug use is a step in the wrong direction for New Zealand.” – John Key

Source: NZ Herald

“I personally will never support the legalisation of drugs in New Zealand as long as I am prime minister in Parliament” – John Key

Source: Greens to abstain on legal high bill – stuff.co.nz

“The message that Parliament sends has to be the right one and that is there is no place for drugs in our society. That is the thing that leads to criminal activity, it leads to brains being fried, it is a drug that takes them on to other drugs.” – John Key

Source: ACT at odds with Brash’s dope stance – Stuff.co.nz

Mr McCoskrie also asked Mr Key about abortion, gay marriage, smacking, the drinking age and decriminalising marijuana. Mr Key did not support changing the law on any of those issues.

Source: Euthanasia legitimate up to a point, says Key – NZ Herald

NZ First

• A health issue, not a crime: NO

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: NO

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: NO

New Zealand First will continue fighting to protect our social fabric and traditional family values which underpin our society. This includes opposing the liberalization of laws relating to issues such as prostitution, cannabis and other drug use

Source: www.nzfirst.org.nz

United Future

• A health issue, not a crime: NO

• Safe legal access to medicinal cannabis: NO

• A regulated, taxed, market for low risk drugs including cannabis: MAYBE

Maintain the current legal status of cannabis, including for medicinal purposes, until there is robust evidence to show that any benefits obtained through cannabis use outweigh the harm to an individual’s health (noting that it is up to the applicants – i.e. drug companies – rather than the government to initiate testing of cannabis for medicinal purposes

Source: Statement provided to Vote Compass

“Not in favour of it at this stage. I think there is still considerable risk. Tn time we might be able to move to a position where the same sort of regime that are applied to psychoactive substances can be applied to cannabis, but not yet.” – Peter Dunne

Source: NZ Herald

See more: http://www.unitedfuture.org.nz/policy/drugs

Thanks to our sources:

Vote Compass


Salient student magazine

NZ Herald


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