We all know the horrific harm that criminalising cannabis has caused. If the reeferendum is passed the Government’s Bill will at least stop that harm from continuing in the future. However, it seems it will do little to reverse that harm in the worst affected communities.
The Government’s proposals have been welcomed by the likes of the Drug Foundation. Yesterday’s announcements are mostly sensible, though if anything on the conservative side. For example the right to grow 2 plants per person, and up to 4 plants per household is on the light side. This will do little to placate those who need cannabis to treat their chronic pain and were left locked out by the medicinal cannabis laws.
National has pointed out that there are gaps in the proposals, but as usual they are barking up the wrong tree. Their complaints are around THC, tax levels and drug driving. These are all operational issues that are best managed by the experts. The regulations will need to be nimble so that for example the tax rate can be adjusted based on what we see in the market.
The real gaps in the proposals are around the licensing regime for sellers and growers. The big question of course is whether people with previous cannabis convictions can be involved in the market. The current wording in the Bill isn’t encouraging on this point:
This Schedule will identify persons considered to be ineligible to be licensees. The intention is that this will include persons with certain previous convictions and persons under 20 years of age.
This is a big issue that we all need to lobby the Government on. People with previous cannabis convictions have been unfairly criminalised in the past. This new market is a chance to give them legal jobs and livelihoods. Let’s give them that chance, instead of pushing them into selling P instead.
The other big let downs for me in the proposals are that online sales have been banned, and there is no provision for local areas to manage retail in different ways. Some areas of the country have had a bad history with tinnie houses, and may not want to see retail stores opening up. I think we should give local areas the power to decide and have online sales instead.
In summary the proposals are promising, but get a fail mark when it comes to empowering people – also known as rangatiratanga. Nothing new there – successive governments have ensured New Zealand is the most centralised country in the world.
Geoff Simmons is the leader of TOP