High Time: Why the Greens must rejoin the fight for cannabis law reform



THE LATEST DRUG FOUNDATION POLL reveals a New Zealand electorate that has moved well beyond the tipping-point on cannabis law reform. Roughly two-thirds of the voting public now accepts that the possession of cannabis for personal use should not be a criminal offence. The international evidence has percolated through New Zealand society: from Portugal and, most particularly, from those states of the USA that have voted to discard the prohibition model.

Public opinion on the medicinal use of cannabis, which is now overwhelmingly in favour of decriminalisation, has been shaped by the heroic example of Helen Kelly. Her open use of cannabis, to relieve the pain of her terminal lung cancer, and the pathetic response of the Key-led Government to the issues she has raised, have clearly had a decisive influence on the debate.

And yet, in spite of the public’s readiness for radical reform, the leadership of the two big political parties have either refused to embrace the necessity for change (National) or taken refuge behind the poll results by issuing a cautious endorsement of medicinal cannabis use, while remaining opposed to any broader decriminalisation measures (Labour).

Truly surprising, however, has been the Green Party’s response to the Drug Foundation’s poll.


At the time of writing, not so much as a single media release had emerged from the Greens. The party that almost certainly owes its original entry to Parliament in 1999 to the votes drummed-up by anti-prohibition campaigner Nandor Tanczos and thousands of former supporters of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, has had nothing to say.

The Greens’ silence is, unfortunately, typical of the party’s cowardice over cannabis law reform. When push came to shove in the Green campaign for decriminalisation, Tanczos discovered that he could not rely upon the full backing of his party.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

As is so often the case in issues of particular relevance to young New Zealanders, the effort to shut down discussion and debate was spearheaded by conservative secondary-school principals. Tanczos had attempted to address a group of seventh-formers on the subject of cannabis law reform. In spite of the fact that many of these students either were, or soon would be, voters; and that Tanczos was a duly elected Member of Parliament; the principal of the school concerned refused to allow him on school property.

Had the Greens been serious cannabis law reformers, they would have sent their entire caucus to the school in question on the back of a flat-bed truck equipped with loudspeakers. Parked outside the front gate, Tanczos could then have invited the seventh form to join him and his parliamentary colleagues in the nearest community-hall after the final bell. Before leaving, they could also have asked the students to consider the propriety of an appointed secondary-school principal attempting to prevent young voters from debating important political issues with a Member of the House of Representatives.

Sadly, the Greens did not do this. Tanczos’s planned discussion with the seventh formers was successfully stymied, and from that moment on the party began to edge away from the Cannabis issue. It was argued that the time was not yet right for an all-out push for decriminalisation. The policy remained on the Greens’ agenda, but it was now a very long way from the top.

That was more than a decade ago – a decade during which opponents of cannabis law reform have been able to consolidate their political position by pointing to the Greens’ retreat as proof of the issue’s electoral toxicity. If not for the courage of reformers in Portugal and the United States, and of the heroism of Helen Kelly and all the other sufferers who have argued publicly for the medicinal use of cannabis to be legalised, the opponents of reform might still have the upper hand.

New Zealand is now ready for the laws relating to cannabis possession and use to be radically revised. There is no longer a broad social consensus in favour of prohibition and punishment. Most New Zealanders believe the “War on Drugs” to be lost, and that the legal war currently being waged upon their children – young Maori in particular – must end.

Unfortunately, there is no corresponding parliamentary consensus for change. Even the left-leaning members of our political class remain unconvinced by the revised opinions of their constituents. What is most needed now is a political party willing to break the log-jam: a party with a proud history of cannabis law reform activism to live up to, and with a cowardly retreat from that activism to live down.

Come on Greens, this is the moment to mount loudspeakers on a whole fleet of flat-bed trucks and begin mobilising an electorate that has clearly signalled its willingness – and readiness – to put an end to cannabis prohibition.


  1. can’t disagree with any of that..

    ..the treachery of the greens to those who first got them into parliament is one of the great supporter betrayals of nz history..

    (almost on a par with rogernomics..)

    ..they now have the chance to redeem themselves..and it would make perfect political sense for them to go hard on cannabis…esp. if nobody else is..

    ..they could own that issue for the ’17 election..and if not why not..?..are they waiting for 100% support for the idea..?

    ..and i thought of a selling wrinkle that could work..

    ..argue for full legalisation/regulation/taxation..(the lrt-option..the saving taxpayers a half a billion a yr option a potent argument for that..some pissy halfway there med-pot only will not alter that annual cost..only legalisation will..

    ..and that selling point would be pledging a percentage of that revenue raised towards making new zealand predator-free..(25%..?..)

    ..who would not love that..?..tourists would love it…happy to pay..

    ..if the greens can’t sell that as the best way forward to an electorate where over 80% want prohibition to end..

    ..they should pack up and go home..

    ..and as for those two clowns who lead national and labour..key ‘doesn’t want to send a message’..but he is quite happy to promote/support the alcohol-swilling culture that really does so much harm to young people..he is quite relaxed about that..

    ..and little with his maude flanders impersonation – wringing his hands and going ‘won’t someone think of the children!’ is just bullshit on an stick..

    ..he cites dangers to young people from legalisation…yet legalisation would have age-restrictions like alcohol..whereas now it is open slather..

    ..every teenager now knows (or can quickly find out) where the local tinny-houses are..and they..as far as i can work out..have no age restrictions..

    ..but the real bone-headed part of littles’ argument is that he is currently supporting prohibition…which means those teenagers are buying pot from places that also sell ‘p’..

    ..now how seriously fucked up is that..?…on littles’ part..

    ..he supports a policy that costs the new zealand taxpayers a half a billion dollars a year…

    ..and he wants to retain a system whereby teenagers of any age can buy pot from places that also offer ‘p’ ‘specials’..

    ..and we currently have a ‘p’-epidemic..doh..!

    ..colorado..?…no ‘p’-epidemic..eh..?

    ..could andrew little be more fucken stupid..?

  2. Yes – I think that the Greens were more impressive back in the days of Nandos and Margaret than they are now.

    • Naturally you would be…In-vino, especially since Chris has turned his poisoned pen towards the Greens…

      Chris like all of us knows that then Greens signed a MOU with Labour. This means considered thought rather than immediate reaction.

      Labour has made its so-called stand and the Greens will no doubt consider their position in due course.

      The Greens understand youth far more than the Nats or other right-wing nutters like Act.

      Key has said he won’t decriminalise cannabis because of the effect it might have on younger users…a normal PR line by the guy that can’t remember his stance on the rugby tour, or how he voted on lowering the legal drinking age but he gave the impression that maybe he would consider medical use, in some cases OK.

      Meanwhile many are jumping on the band wagon of Helen Kelly’s illness this was evident when Chris stated: “If not for the courage of reformers in Portugal and the United States, and of the heroism of Helen Kelly and all the other sufferers who have argued publicly for the medicinal use of cannabis to be legalised”…

      Helen Kelly is one of the bravest individuals I know and I’m sure that she will treat some of her self appointed new ‘friends’ in a deserving manner, I’m sure that she awaits the Greens response.

      I, as do many others hope that the Greens will respond in a considered fashion…I want to see cannabis legalised, for two reasons 1st it is logical in all respects, 2nd because the police will have the time to at long last catch a few house breakers for a change…

      • @Peter Wheeler re ” it is logical in all respects”…”I, as do many others hope that the Greens will respond in a considered fashion”

        …when you have an elderly relative who has been in acute pain for some years (for which the medics can find no cause except perhaps a pinched nerve or arthritis of the back …and no cure)

        ….you will also find it is “compassionate” !!!

        …and it is most lacking in compassion to delay the response

        ( the Greens won’t be getting any more donations from me)

      • “knows that then Greens signed a MOU with Labour.”

        Well ‘something’ did. But they didn’t have much chlorophyll.

        Even before that ‘lovely event in the rose garden’ – the Greens were doing very little about not much.

    • +100…Greens ain’t what they idealistically once were…gone conservative and bureaucratic and cautious and authoritarian ( smug middle class comfortable)

  3. The cannabis issue is gaining momentum without the Greens bolstering the “wacky” image and thus reducing their credibility when it comes to the more important issues of climate change and inequality.

    As for turning up at schools to promote cannabis law reform FFS! This is an issue for use by adults. Plenty of other important issues to talk with teenagers about.

    • so crokia..you would prefer teenagers just not discuss this subject –

      and would like them to continue buying pot from tinny-houses where they also peddle ‘p’..?..eh..?

      have you ever thought/heard of the concept/practice of ‘thinking on’..?

      ..why not try/start with this one..?

      • Teenagers should definitely discuss, research and be informed about cannabis, but unless we have a planet with a liveable climate today’s teenagers are going to have a very bleak future. I don’t think the Green party should focus on cannabis + teenagers (as Chris Trotter demands)
        Mainstream NZers seem to end up adopting concepts the Greens introduce, eg recycling, electric cars. Cannabis reform will follow. Global temperature records are being broken month after month. If the Greens are visit schools with loudspeakers, they need to be talking about climate change not dope.

        • If cannabis was legal, there would be a gigantic number of medicinal cannabis users who would suddenly have a lot more time for causes like climate change.

          No-one who is suffering and in pain right now will ever care more about what might happen to the climate in 50 years’ time.

          The Greens need to relearn some compassion and get behind cannabis law reform. As it is, it looks like they have sold out and now only support issues once someone else has made them fashionable.

          • +100… yes totally agree “The Greens need to relearn some compassion and get behind cannabis law reform.”

            …and the Greens have delusions of grandeur if they think they are the only ones concerned or expert on global warming … and they are so important that they should concentrate on this one issue

            …or is this just an excuse for doing nothing and keeping their seats warm in a cushy parliamentary job

  4. Labour could take a lead on this issue but like always their middle class values trigger a fear response and they continue to look like national but with with red wallpaper. The public are screaming out for change. Gang drug distribution grows. Cancer patients miss out, growers get arrested…. nothing changes.

  5. Not sure how the greens can oppose soft drink but support cannabis

    [John/Dave, please use only one user-name on this forum. – ScarletMod]

  6. High Chris maybe the new survaillance laws have scared most people off this top, whoops heavy knocking at the door , exit stage left POOF!!!

  7. These buggars are umming and aahing about decriminalising cannabis because it is the older, more conservative voter who holds sway. If any of them get a whiff that younger people are going to turn up en masse, they’d be changing their tune pdq.
    Meanwhile, let’s all demand a REEFERENDUM

    • no..we don’t want to spend an interminable time with a bloody (non-binding) referendum…

      ..we already know the levels of support for change..

      ..a non-binding referendum would be a long useless waste of time/money..and will just extend the cruelties of/from prohibition..

      ..and with the person i know/help….who is in the advanced state of terminal cancer..and who is on enormous amounts of morphine..and yet for whom strong cannabis provides the best relief from her miseries of all..

      (i have seen tears of relief rolling down her cheeks as the strong pot has kicked in..nobody could see that and not be radicalised..not be demanding immediate change..)

      ..she needs/wants med-pot today/yesterday/tomorrow….

  8. The Greens are way too gentrified and careerist nowadays. They wouldn’t publicly touch cannabis with a ten-foot pole.

    Funny thing though, if they had the guts to do it, they would probably gain a huge amount of popularity.

    They seem to be on corse to merge with Labour though, just like the Alliance did.

    • The cannabis debate will be settled without adding to the entrenched view of the Greens being “whacky- baccy , tree hugging, sandal wearing whale lovers”. I think Chris is being a bit disingenuous here as he has been want to do lately. The Greens policy is clear and I think they are wise to let the rest catch up.
      The Greens must hammer climate change and social justice to get their message across.

      • @ garabaldi..

        at the last election russel norman made it quite clear that cannabis reform was not on any green party top 10 list of things to do…

        ..and since then i have heard no disavowals of this stance from the greens..(so ‘catch up’ with what exactly..?)

        ..in fact..as trotter also noted..the silences from the greens on this issue have never been less than resounding..

        ..i would love to know how many pro-reform press-releases the greens have done on this in past 10 yrs..

        i would be surprised if you could not count them on one hand..

        ..and this in a time when globally legalisation etc has been going gangbusters..

        (and in parliament no questions on the irrationality of pissing a half a billion dollars away each/every year…(source: treasury paper detailing costs/lost revenue from prohibition..)

        and it’s not bloody either/or…the greens can walk and chew gum at the same time..

        they can ‘hammer climate change and social justice’ – and argue against the insanities of prohibition at the same time..eh..?..

        and if the greens can’t see the vote-gathering potential of going hard on/owning ending prohibition..@ the ’17 election…in/at a time when 80%+ of the voters want reform..

        ..they clearly have the political nous of a sack of doorknobs..

        • I love what you say Phil and I read Whoar religiously(sic ), but don’t underestimate the conservatism of NZ when it comes to drugs. I was in the Values party yonks ago and then the Greens and imo the issue of drugs has been a big problem in the perception of the greens. We were debating the issue of decriminalisation back in the seventies – what progress did we make other than being pilloried as a bunch of druggies ?

          • chrs 4 the nice words about whoar..

            ..but the 70’s were the 70’s..

            ..and now is now..

            .and the greens need no longer tremble in fear at the mention of the word cannabis..

            ..that 80%+ support from tory voters for med-pot couldn’t be a clearer indication of how much this debate has moved on since then..

            ..and even tho’ i railed against it..the case could be made back then for caution..

            ..but not now..now they must be bold..

            ..the electorate is open to the message of change..they are just unsure what they want/how to get there..

            ..the greens coming forward with a cherry-picking of the best of what the overseas legalised regimes do – underpinned by a constant repetition of that message of half a billion dollars a year that will still be pissed up against the wall if we only go halfway – and do med-pot only..

            this is a potent/coherent message that will resonate with many…and will help their vote..

            b.t.w….’concerned reactionary’ of taumaranui will never vote for the greens….the greens should stop trying to be all things to all people…

            ..stop spreading themselves so thin…

            and they should/need to focus on their core..

            .and this issue is part of their ‘core’…given that historical debt owed – how can it not be..?

            ..and they should be zeroed in on the huge population bulge that is the millennials…(bigger than the boomers..)

            ..and unlike ‘concerned reactionary’ from taumaranui..i don’t think those millennials are scared by the prospect of sane laws around cannabis…

  9. It may be that there is a big difference between the personal stance and the private stance of many politicians on the cannabis laws.
    Privately there would probably be many on all sides of the house that would like to engage in a robust and progressive debate on dealing with the health and social issues of this drug but they are too scared to publicly promote it.
    They are too scared because they know that the moment they open their mouths they will have cretins like Mike Hosking and Paul Henry abusing and slandering them. They will be up against a hospitality industry that wants alcohol to be the king of the drugs in this country and does not welcome any competition. They are scared that if they utter a word in favour of decriminalization their political career will be finished by the hysterical conservative outrage that the establishment will inevitably try to generate.
    One problem for cannabis is that it is portrayed throughout the media as a lefties drug, and given the general MSM hostility to the political left it doesn’t give one much hope that we will be able to have a decent debate about does it?
    If it was like cocaine and was routinely snorted by yuppie share brokers and boardroom execs then perhaps it would be different.
    I wish we could grow up in this country and talk sensibly about issues such as this, plus things like the housing crisis, poverty, euthanasia, etc. instead of being too scared to open our mouths because we fear ridicule from our tunnel-visioned half-baked right-wing slander maisters on prime time TV.

  10. The greens in their policy have somewhat suggested that they want to be the food police. Supporting cannabis is inconsistent with that policy. The Maori party was to ban smoking so that is also anti cannabis.Little Andrew wanted a referendum, but is now undecided.Key is the only one with the balls to state his position

    [John/Dave, please use only one user-name on this forum. – ScarletMod]

  11. The health benefits of cannabis outweigh any negativity arising from those who overindulge in everything. This link is for those with children with asthma.
    Anything that has medical benefits is sequestered by Big Pharma and then their Monsanto scientists manipulate and twist what was natural and part of Mother Earth into some dangerous, addictive and ultimately harmful to humanity … and then of course this brings into play the poor old GPs who hand out expensive drugs that are dangerous, addictive and ultimately harmful to humanity. Bugger!
    Stand up and be counted Greens before we lose patience with you too.

        • gee..!..thanks for clearing that up for me/us..eh..?..

          and of course..for once again confirming that a s.o.h.-byepass @ birth is an essential-ingredient of any rightwinger..

          ..such a sad/serious existance they lead..

          ..i (almost) feel sorry for them..

          ..and for an example of rightwing fuck-headedry go and watch yr namesake jamie whyte on henry on the vomiting people in havelock north..

          ..he talks such absolute shite even henry can’t help himself – he outright jeers @ whyte…

          ..’tho’ i will give you/concede ‘copperhead row’ by steve earle..

          ..a great song by a great songwriter/performer..

          ..and that vid is the pretty-boy years – before the effects of/from the smack kicked in..

          ..he sure as hell doesn’t look much like that now..

          • You sure you don’t live in Havelock North bud – I ain’t no doctor but it looks to me like you got a bad case of the verbal diarrhea running down your chin there bud.


            • Government man keep calling my house
              Talking ‘bout I owe, harassing my spouse
              Gotta park my truck on another block
              Cause the sub-prime loan got my ass in hock

              Got a couple good friends with helping hands
              I need a brand new job with a health care plan
              They closed the plant, they stole my job
              Told me crime don’t pay unless you ask the mob

              So I smoke a little grass, drink a little wine
              Watch a little tube, try to kill a little time
              And every single day I fall a little more behind
              But I’m paying it no mind, it’ll all be fine

              I barely get by
              I laugh not to cry
              I stay a little high
              I ain’t gonna lie

              Yes yes y’all and it never stops
              I don’t trust the government, I don’t trust no cops
              We dip and we dive and we socialize
              We struggle and we strive just to stay alive

              When I finally get home I can’t relax
              Cause I’ve been over worked and I’ve been over taxed
              My bank accounts empty, all my cards are maxed
              And I ain’t looking for no pity, I’m just stating the facts

              I voted for some change and it’s kinda strange
              Now it’s all I got in my pocket
              I bought a few Led’s, now I’m growing some trees
              And it’s a sweet fucking hustle don’t knock it

              I told y’all before I would break the law to put food in my baby girls belly
              Coz the senator man took a bribe in hand and went and shipped my job to New Delhi


              I’m outta here, I got sh*t to do.
              Trotter I thank you for your time.

            • oh..!..my bad.!..i thought you had a phd…

              ..clearly you don’t…’bud’..’lolz’..eh..?…(heh…!..)

              ..have you met that other numbnut..?..jamie..?..(the unhappy one..?..)

Comments are closed.