Cannabis referendum: Bring it on!

By   /   May 24, 2018  /   19 Comments

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Great news today with the Government announcing it is considering bringing forward the binding referendum on legalising cannabis to next year, 2019, rather than during the 2020 general election. 

Great news today with the Government announcing it is considering bringing forward the binding referendum on legalising cannabis to next year, 2019, rather than during the 2020 general election.

The government is debating whether to hold the referendum on legalising marijuana next year. The Justice Minister Andrew Little says there’s a view holding the referendum at the 2020 General Election wouldn’t be a smart move politically. 

Bring it on! A solid majority of New Zealand adults support law reform and people are telling me they don’t want to wait any longer.

The government needs to keep up with international developments. Canada will legalise in July this year. Even the World Health Organisation is among those calling for drug law reform.

It’s good to see the Government considering what the next steps should be:

Mr Little acknowledged the government had a lot of work to do before any vote.

“We need to make sure there is good public information out there, good events for people to express their views, so that would dictate a timing that would be no earlier that late 2019.”

He said the government still did not know what sort of legalised marijuana system it will propose putting in place.

“We simply haven’t got anywhere near that, I think it’s about getting the mechanics of the referendum sorted, then I think obviously some discussions around scope and maybe some options there.

“The critical question is going to be, what is the question to go to the electorate with, one that makes sense and gives a meaningful answer and gives a mandate if it is approved to proceed with further work”

NORML believes the cannabis referendum should be a binding vote on a known, specified, law that should take immediate effect should it pass.

There needs to be a public education and consultation phase so there is a clear understanding on what the proposal means.

The best way of doing this is for the public to make submissions on the proposed laws, and then be able to vote them into law at the referendum.

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About the author

Chris Fowlie

Former editor of NORML News, Chris Fowlie is president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, manager of The Hempstore, and court-recognised expert witness for serious cannabis charges.

19 Comments

  1. The Masked Moa says:

    It looks more like they want to bury the the issue before the election. Given that they promised medicinal cannabis and have so far delivered the most restrictive option possible I don’t think it will be much better with this referendum. Most importantly who will decide what these legalisation options will be? The first MMP referendum had 2 questions: 1 to change to electoral system or not?; 2 – what was the preference to change to? In this case MMP won through this and all subsequent referendums.

    Ideally the cannabis referendum would have the option to vote on both as well and in this way the government cant weasle out of avoiding what the public want. The fact it isn’t a binding referendum says a lot about the priorities of the Greens. They say they want to end the drug war but prioritise identity politics and cabinet salaries for their own back pockets.

    • Strypey says:

      The Masked Moa:
      “The fact it isn’t a binding referendum says a lot about the priorities of the Greens. They say they want to end the drug war but prioritise identity politics and cabinet salaries for their own back pockets.”

      As it says in the intro to Chris’s article, this *is* a “binding” referendum. Perhaps next time you might stop to check your facts before you publicly berate the Greens for something they didn’t do?

      That aside though, there are some good ideas in this comment. This doesn’t need to be a single-tick referendum. There could be a number of options people could tick “yes” or “no” on, for example:
      * should people be legally allowed to grow, use, and share whole plant cannabis for non-commercial, recreational purposes?
      * should people be legally allowed to grow and sell whole plant cannabis commercially, for recreational purposes, under a system of licensing and age restrictions similar to those used for the production and sale of alcohol?

      That way, the referendum could test the waters on whether the NZ public are ready to allow regulated recreational cannabis industry a la Colorado etc, without making it an all-or-nothing gamble. In theory, the public could reject a commercial industry by ticking “no” on that option, while still voting in favour of decriminalization of personal use, grow-your-own, and social dealing, by ticking “yes” on the non-commercial option.

  2. esoteric pineapples says:

    Is it binding? I heard James Shaw a while back say that the Green party doesn’t believe in any referendum being binding, including for Cannabis.

    • Strypey says:

      “the Green party doesn’t believe in any referendum being binding”

      To be precise, most Greens I’ve spoken to about referenda oppose making Citizens Initated Referenda binding. Their concerns are related to the confusingly-worded and arguably misleading questions that have been presented as CIR, and the power of moneyed interests to manipulate the campaigns around them. These are reasonable concerns, but I think they can be addressed, and I would the left would win every time if irreversible decisions like the sale of public assets had to be put to binding referenda.

      I think the Greens first concern could be addressed simply by making a rule that binding referenda questions have to be worded by the Electoral Commission, in consultation with the campaign group trying to initiate the referendum, so that the outcome gives the government a clear mandate. As for the second concern, the money Peter Shitcliff and co spent trying to stop proportional representation, and the money spent trying to get rid of MMP, didn’t seem to sway the result. Again, I think the Electoral Commission could have a role in making sure there is a well-informed public debate, and sufficient resources put into fact-checking and presenting neutral information to the electorate about the consequences of voting either way.

  3. Kim dandy says:

    Maybe our parliamentarians have realised that by 2019 most other countries would have already made it legal and NZ will be one of the last to change…
    …don’t want to be left behind now do we…

  4. Isabel J says:

    As a NZ Registered Nurse (retd) & decades-long sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis, the ignorance of the Prime Minister about all-things cannabis is cause for worry. Indeed, most politicians are in a state of complete ignorance about the healing capacity of cannabis. The legalisation of cannabis, thereby allowing me to grow my own, (the leaves of which I would eat raw) would significantly enhance my comfort & lifestyle. The pain I constantly experience (& which OTC & Rx “pain relief” is both dangerous & ineffective – all pharmaceutical “drugs” being toxic, poisonous chemicals), would be considerably eased. Below are links to some episodes of a docuseries about cannabis, that as a penurious superannuitant I was not able to buy, but every politician can well afford to purchase & become knowledgeably informed on viewing/listening.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqcDfyTnYA8
    The Sacred Plant Secrets Exposed: Episode 1

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJfbqZmcBuI
    How The Sacred Plant Helped Defy Terminal Cancer – Twice

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7fVuRwjTdM
    Using The Sacred Plant to Treat Silent Killers with Dustin Sulak

  5. countryboy says:

    Oh, for fuck sake! What’s with all the jabber and hand wringing? Andrew Little talks about decriminalising weed as if it’s a plant previously only found on fucking Mars. Get a grip of your high wankery Andrew and just fucking do it for Gods sake!
    Andrew? You heard of Portugal? It’s a country. A bit spesh’ for decriminalising ALL drugs. Imagine you with that on your plate? You’d explode from the in’s and out’s of it. Have you read/seen/heard about how that’s working out for them? No? Quite good, let me inform you. It’s amazing what happens when common sense is allowed to prevail above the heat of the gasses from dick head politicians. Is it a good time to mention that arch idiot himself, the bow tie wonder boy, Mr Hair 2018, a drum roll please for the fuck wit that bound us to the mid 20th century when beige was the new black and if it came out of a chemist shop we could swallow as many as our brains could take…. peter fucking dunne. There ya go! Quite the role model for our young and adventurous. Peter just-say-no-then-shave -your-perineum-and-bleach-your-anus dunne. Squeaky clean/ Mad as fuck.
    Constantly having to listen to gutless wonder, crack pots blathering like lonely Billy goats about things they know about but are too weak-tea to admit it is entirely insufferable and far, far worse than any really bad experience I’ve ever had on any of the many drugs I’ve tried. ( Booze, by far the worst so far then cigarettes for their merciless addictive nature.)
    The very worst thing with regard to drugs, all drugs, is ignorance. Ignorance about what you’re taking, about the amount your taking and about knowing there’s are an army of freaks in police uniforms out there ready and able to fuck your life up if one’s caught in possession.
    Stop the wank and just do it Labour. Just say yes!
    “ Reality is for people who can’t handle drugs. “ Tom Waits.

  6. phillip ure says:

    and ardern will ignore it – so it is just a massive waste of time/money….achieving s.f.a…why don’t they just do some polling if they want to gauge public opinion..?..but they already know….this is just bullshit….

  7. Observer Tokoroa says:

    Hi Country Boy

    You seem to be all about fucks and shits and dicks and stuff.

    You won’t have any time to smoke, drink, chew, let alone medicate on the Marijuana. You silly little boy.

    No wonder. Now go and get on the Piss.

  8. Reeferendum Rabbit says:

    A little cog turned the last little bit in London….
    A butterfly flapped its wings in China….

    For all our efforts, rants and ravs, a secret room of ‘high level controllers’ has flipped the switch.
    We are but ants.

  9. LOLBAGZ says:

    Just let the obsolete law dissolve into obsolescence and forget it like that ghey shee. Just quit policing that, it’s below low priority… there you go, problem solved.

    • Reeferendum Rabbit says:

      wot will the cops do up until law change??
      keep arresting green fairies, the sick and elderly?
      kids with adhd?
      the bullied and the vulnerable??
      everyday kiwis who prefer pot to booze?

      that’s got to be soul destroying, to keep arresting pot users going forward from now
      shame

  10. maako says:

    Greetings One & All,
    Always ignored in the political discussion of the herb,
    is the spiritual association to the Rastafari & Reggae music scene.
    Which is not just a dynamic industry in Jamaica being its Top tourist attraction,but internationally even right here in Godzone NZ.
    The Raggamuffin & One Love concerts have been a God send (pun intended) to the struggling economy’s of towns Like Rotorua & Tauranga.
    Even in this NZ Music music month I would like to share my
    condolences to the passing Rastafari Brethren Karl Perkins & his
    whanau
    There Band “House of Shem”.

    Who are proof of the inter generational force of Reggae & Rastafari teachings,
    of a father & sons who share the message of Peace & Love.
    which combined with the freedom of using the herb bearing seed

    created by the creator.
    Is something so special the Spiritual message is undeniable

    here I would like to share a heartfelt apology to the Rastafarian
    Community from the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda

    maybe PM Jacinda Adern could do like wise?

    http://www.caricentric.com/2018/05/01/prime-minister-gaston-browne-issues-an-apology-to-the-rastafarian-community/

  11. maako says:

    Greetings One & All,
    Always ignored in the political discussion of the herb,
    is the spiritual association to the Rastafari & Reggae music scene.
    Which is not just a dynamic industry in Jamaica being its Top tourist attraction,but internationally even right here in Godzone NZ.
    The Raggamuffin & One Love concerts have been a God send (pun intended) to the struggling economy’s of towns Like Rotorua & Tauranga.
    Even in this NZ Music music month I would like to share my
    condolences to the passing Rastafari Brethren Karl Perkins & his
    whanau.
    There internationally accredited Band “House of Shem”.

    Who are proof of the inter generational force of Reggae & Rastafari teachings,
    of a father & his sons who musically share the universal message of Peace & Love.
    which listened to combined with the freedom of using the herb bearing seed created by the creator.
    Is something so special the Spiritual message is undeniable.

    here I would like to share a heartfelt apology to the Rastafarian
    Community from the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda

    maybe PM Jacinda Adern could do like wise?

    http://www.caricentric.com/2018/05/01/prime-minister-gaston-browne-issues-an-apology-to-the-rastafarian-community/

  12. bruce says:

    Justice Minister Andrew Little says there’s a view holding the referendum at the 2020 General Election wouldn’t be a smart move politically.
    Who gives a shit about politics, obviously this low fuck, more important to continue to cause suffering because he still sucked in by fake news reefer madness than to correct a corrupt law. Enjoy your big sallary you big waste of space.

    • Strypey says:

      This seems unhelpfully aggressive. I’m not sure why Labour want to hold the referendum a year earlier, but surely this is a good thing? Hopefully the legislation enacting the result would be in place by the time of the 2020 election (assuming we win the referendum of course), meaning the whole issue would no longer be a political hot potato, and most likely the new law would stand even in the unlikely even of National winning in 2020.

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  14. Denny Paoa says:

    Not a fuck’n chance! Its a Leper Bill. Little is playing smart politics. Leverage going into the 2020 election. No incumbent government in their right mind with a 50/50 chance of surviving the pending election, would put themselves into the path or wrath of the Nats, Conservatives & Religious nutters before an election.
    I guarantee you, it’ll be dropped once Little secures himself a bag of goodies.