GUEST BLOG: Geoff Simmons – Will the Reeferendum Keep People Out of the Joint?


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.

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Geoff Simmons is the leader of TOP


  1. Its a ‘Market’. Like any other market, it’ll be driven by ‘supply and demand’. Whoever feels like they can game the ‘Game’ will suffer the consequences which will be addressed under the crimes Act of Supplying Illicit Substances Act and every other Act thats available to the courts.

    Other than that, its game on!

  2. Not well thought through. But a good starting point. From what I understand the psychotic effects everyone is worried about can be accentuated by the ratio of different THCs and cannabidiols. Similar to the difference between a body and a head stone, but there are more subtleties involved than that. A simple limit on the THC ratio is a blunt instrument (if you’ll excuse the pun). Lets hope the police develop a better test for driving impairment before legalization. Hopefully, the proposals wont get any more watered down and conservative before the referendum.

  3. “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.”
    Who are these people who have no alternative to selling drugs for a living? If there is one person in that position in New Zealand then we need a thorough-going revolution now. But is there really? I don’t believe so. There are, however, unscrupulous drug dealers who will threaten “If you don’t let us sell cannabis, we will sell P”. When it comes down to it, they will sell whatever is most profitable to them – be that alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or methamphetamine.
    “empowering people – also known as rangatiratanga”
    That is a creative definition of rangatiratanga, which is ok if it means empowering people to live good lives, but not if it means empowering people to sell drugs. Tawhiao put a prohibition on alcohol. I reckon he would have done the same with cannabis, methamphetamine and all the other drugs which are destroying the wairua of our people.
    This legislation is designed to open up new sources of profit for capital, and new tax revenues for the Crown. The well-being of our people doesn’t figure at all.

  4. While I don’t think that cannabis should be treated as a serious crime (aka let off with a warning), and think that people who have medical conditions like chronic pain should be able to grow cannabis if it helps, I’m also not looking forward to loads of stoned people driving around or self medicating with cannabis, because it is addictive.

    The reason that many in middle NZ has softened their stance on cannabis, is because Meth seems to be a lot worse, more addictive, cheaper and it’s everywhere!

  5. This legalising of cannabis is just going to add more misery and social problems to mainly the poorer people.
    It is mostly driven by young people, who think it would be rather cool to be able to toke on a joint with no hassle from the cops. I thought it a good idea when younger, but as you get older, you realise that you wouldn’t want your children or grandchildren, who were just walking on the footpath, to be mowed over and killed by some driving idiot high as a kite on cannabis. We have enough misery and aggravation from all the rest of the shit with which we stuff our brains, without having to add to it.

  6. @Mack
    All sounds a bit anecdotal and not based in evidence. Also given the fact that 80% of people try cannabis, how do you feel about “your children or grandchildren” being arrested, as it is now under prohibition?

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