How can NZ be so far behind America on Cannabis?



It’s just embarrassing isn’t it?

How on earth can NZ be so far behind the home of the war on drugs???

Long lines for marijuana sales on first legal day in Denver
Colorado’s ambitious experiment in cannabis policy hit a historic milestone Wednesday, when licensed stores began making the first legal sales of recreational marijuana anywhere in the world. A lot of people queued up outside the pot shops to buy retail marijuana in Denver

NZ continues to have high incarceration rates for possession of cannabis with millions spent on policing a product far less harmful than tobacco or alcohol while empowering organized crime. The current situation is a societal lose, lose, lose.

How have we become so left behind in this debate? I think it’s a political abdication of leadership. The Greens are too frightened to spook their new soccer Mum voter base and Labour won’t risk anything controversial in an election this close. The Maori Party are missing in action and ALCP are a lost bunch of stoners going no where.

TDB Recommends

The only hope I see for cannabis liberalization is a private members bill proposing a medical cannabis regulated market because I just don’t see any political party being particularly brave on this issue. The Police will continue to use cannabis prohibition to gain vast intrusive powers into peoples lives and no Political Party wants to run foul of the Police on law and order rhetoric in an election year.

The recent Drug Foundation talkfest went no where and was as politically impotent as it always is while the police get away with bullying cannabis activists into suicide. The reality is we have gone backwards on cannabis reform while America has moved forwards.

To shed some light on this issue, I will host a ‘Pathway to Reform’ Cannabis conference on March 20th in Auckland, more details as we get closer to the conference.



  1. Interesting call Bomber: “The Greens are too frightened to spook their new soccer Mum voter base”

    Considering you say the only hope is a medical marijuana private members bill, exactly what Metiria put into the ballot and which was voted down in the house.

    Where does Mana stand on this? No mention has been made of them but their vote could be critical if this comes up in the next governments term in office, and Hone has always been pretty anti ‘dope’ as he calls it.

    • you really want to kick that ghost back to life..

      ..that bill that turei inherited from tanczos..that she had the bad luck to draw..

      ..and that she moved not a muscle to promote..?

      ..did nada/zero/zilch..?

      ..i railed against this deliberate-withering by turei/the greens..

      ..and nothing has happened since then to change that criminal ignoring of that bill..? this the bill you speak of..?

      ..phillip ure..

    • Max – Good point about Mana, and you are right that Hone has always been against people using weed, but I think he puts it alongside alcohol use in terms of how damaging it is to people and communities. The only time I’ve heard him speak about weed is in a 2011 interview with Bryce Edwards.

      However, its worth also noting that Mana is not Hone, and Mana’s policies come from their members who put forward ideas and then vote on them – for example, supporting marriage equality was decided by Mana’s members, not Hone. As far as I know Hone is quite socially conservative and may not fully agree with Mana’s social polices.
      (that is all from my limited knowledge of Mana, hopefully someone will correct me if its wrong)

    • You know the Greens target audience these days…25-45 year old educated pseudo-environmentalists. The type who think we can recycle our way to utopia. They have a trophy child who is “the best soccer player in the whole team, every week”. They own two cars, but cycle for the facebook photos. They think weed is the loser’s drug (they used to smoke it but grew out of it), but they quietly admit to dabbling in some MDMA after a dinner party – where they think they’ll talk about new music, but they end up chatting about mortgage rates. They also talk about eating organic food, yoga and their vege patch, but they eat as much crap as the rest of us. They voted National before, but then realised their favourite UK comedians hate the Tories, so they vote Green, because Labour are for dorks and poor people from unions.

        • The Greens desired audience changed markedly in 2008. They used TV personalities, slick ad campaigns which looked like Apple adverts, framed themselves with imagery rather than policies, and moved away from eco-socialism and towards mainstream environmentalism.
          After Rod Donald’s (RIP) death in 2005, they could have gone with Nandor, but instead went with Dr Normon and changed their leader into one that was business savvy. Then they could have replaced Jeanette Fitzsimons with Sue Bradford, but instead went with Metiria Turei. With Bradford and Nandor leaving, the Greens adopted a slick Americanised image and went after centrist voters – this was when they stopped talking about weed as a health issue, structural changes etc, and they began talking about printing money and tinkering with the economy.
          The Greens used to be about making major changes and protecting our future, but now they don’t. Greens used to be cool like Mana, but now they’re like a Youth Labour Party

  2. I have to agree with you Bomber. It is so discouraging to live in a country that was once a leader in socially responsible and progressive policymaking that has now lost its way. What has happened? I can only hope that Peter Dunne-Nothing is voted out this year. He has been a major obstacle to coherent and productive debate on this issue.
    We need to do the following:
    Legislate (change the 40+ year old and now outdated law and make cannabis legal – medicinally and recreationally)
    Educate (teach our children about the TRUE pros and cons of cannabis – it isn’t pure evil and it isn’t the saviour of the planet . . . somewhere in between)
    Regulate (restrict sale to adults so that under 20s don’t get their hands on it – maybe under 18s and to ensure safe product)
    Tax (to cover the costs of any eventual social harms)
    The savings in enforcement costs alone should be enough to make this a fiscally attractive option for a Govt needing a cash injection.
    Sadly the big lobby groups – pharmaceutical, alcohol, and oil won’t allow it.

  3. I tend to agree with your piece on the latest Cannabis Symposium held in Auckland by the NZDF. Despite there being scholarships on offer, Activists and those who have been at the Cutting Edge of Cannabis Change were mostly declined. It seems that maintaining the status quo was and still is the main agenda. Not one single pro Cannabis American doctor or patient was a key note speaker.
    The last time I went to a NZDF dinner the key note speaker was an advocate of AA and a member of the Kennedy clan. His speech was in two parts, the first how amazing living the high life as a Kennedy was in the 80’s with all the alcohol and cocaine. The second half of his speech was, with my sobriety I now work this gravy train.

  4. The advantage that the seppos have in this area is the state system. Only some states have made moves away from prohibition, and the federal government often seems to do its best to make it hard for them. There are also still plenty of states where nothing much has changed.

    Meanwhile, back home in Aotearoa, if it were decided as a local issue, I suspect we’d see much the same thing. Most of Northland would legalise it, while the Waikato around Cambridge and Morrinsville would probably keep it illegal, not because they don’t smoke themselves, but because they like the idea of police having more power to arrest young Maori. Of course, snorting up lines of coke off the stablehand’s sixpack between Olympics is another issue altogether, and quite a curly one.

  5. Since NZ parties substantially lack the strength of character to look objectively at this issue – which is surprising considering the maturity they mustered for the marriage equality bill – the least they could do would be to undertake to review the law in the light of US decriminalisation initiatives.

    Of course, the Gnat cronies presently aiming to profit from drug-testing beneficiaries will kick up a fuss over it, but they should never have been funded in the first place – the US experience of this program is of a colossal waste of money.

  6. As you’ve said before Bomber, in your blogs on the NZDF conference, the debate was won a long time ago.

    Former US drug cop Barry Cooper:
    “Oh my god, what the %^$ am I doing busting into these homes, ruining lives and ruining families?”

    Former US President Jimmy Carter, whom Cooper quotes as saying:
    “When the legal side effects of a substance cause more side effects than the substance itself, we have an injustice.”

    …has come out in support of the Washington and Colorado cannabis legalizations:

    In order to get political movement though, we need to get some consensus on where we want to go. Nandor failed to get his “instant fines” bill past its first reading. Metiria’s “medical only” bill suffered the same fate. Since you can’t get any more timid or tentative than these efforts, maybe we need to push for something a bit more ambitious? Something that actually gets at the core problem – thousands of kiwis being harassed for non-violently getting high, or helping others to do so.

    According to the Beeb:
    “Under a measure approved by Colorado’s voters, possession, cultivation and private, personal, recreational consumption of marijuana has already been legal in the state for more than a year.”

    I think perhaps this is what we should be shooting for here in Aotearoa, at least as a first step: stop arresting people for possession and non-commercial growing. While we monitor the effects of this reform, we can then have an open and honest public debate about the pros and cons of legalizing and taxing commercial supply.

    I think allowing people to possess for use, and grow and share (“social dealing” in the language of the Law Commission), is a political compromise all the pro-reform factions can get behind. Daktivists and libertarians who want Aotearoa to become the next Colorado could endorse it as a major step forward – a much more significant one than “instant fines” or “medical only” models – and continue to argue for equivalence with alcohol, and the creation of an R18 commercial supply as a next step. This compromise could also be acceptable to cautious lefties, who agree that prohibition causes more harm than cannabis itself but fear cannabis becoming another tool of corporate profit like tobacco or alcohol, with profit-motivated companies openly promoting it, especially to young people.

Comments are closed.