The trouble with the Cannabis Referendum – too many pointy heads, not enough coneheads


I think.

I hope.

I pray that the cannabis referendum passes.

I believe that cannabis prohibition has been one of the most spectacular social policy failures NZ has ever embarked upon.

Empowering organised crime, needlessly persecuting vast swathes of the population (usually with a very racist bent), the cost to our judicial system, allowing the bloody cops enormous and intrusive powers into our lives and the billions we have ignored in taxation are all righteous reasons to smash this bloody law now.

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I believe a regulated market as promoted by the referendum is the EXACT intelligent approach for us to take.

So why are the polls suggesting that the referendum will be so bloody close?

The religious American right are spending a fortune here on the ‘nope to dope’ campaign after they were conned into funding this alongside the anti-abortion nonsense but that doesn’t go far enough to explaining why a referendum that is so righteous should be facing such a steep up hill battle, especially when ALL the evidence highlights the current farce of a law is counter productive in the extreme.

So what is happening?

I think we have too many pointy heads leading the debate and not enough cone heads.

The Drug Foundation are pointy heads and the Helen Clark Foundation is the pointiest of heads and they of course were needed in this debate because the middle had to be won over, the problem I think is that the actual stoner community, those NZers who use cannabis regularly, have been utterly alienated and ignored in this sanitised debate and as such they aren’t turning up to the fight.

Now, there are plenty of reasons for avoiding the domestic cannabis community, as someone who has been inside that community for some time, I appreciate the near impossibility of herding these cats into any type of order. Their suspicion, life long grudges with other activists and general paranoia make them almost impossible to engage with, but engage with them someone must if we are tp get the extra 5% to win this.

I suggest grabbing someone at this late stage who has infinite credibility with that community, someone like Nandor to front a campaign to get the stoner community to the polls. With the new rules on same day enrolment and booths in malls and supermarkets this election, we’ve never had a better chance of getting that stoner vote to the polls.

The sanitised pointy heads of The Drug Foundation and Helen Clark Foundation are great and necessary to win the support of the buttoned down proper middle NZ soccer mum electorate but by alienating the current stoner community we risk not winning at all.


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  1. The more this referendum is talked about, positively, the more softening towards cannibis is occurring. The NZ middle is learning some facts about cannibis, some of them good. Like medicinal value to those in terminal state, like reducing meth use, like chilled out destressed citizens instead of angry violent drinkers. There is little harm caused by the weed. OK we don’t want drugged out zombies everywhere, but that’s not going to happen except for the few that already do that. Most people will smoke weed responsibly – this is the message that needs to be promoted. It’s not a killer drug like Heroin.

  2. The problem is that cannabis is illegal. Anyone who uses it and pipes up about supporting a yes vote immediately puts themselves at risk, not only with the police, but also their employers

    • Exactly EP – there will be many people in this situation who simply won’t engage or comment due to personal risk.

      This is also why IMO the YES vote will succeed. The % of people in this situation could be significant and material to a YES outcome.

  3. The police have better things to do than worry about pot smokers supporting a yes vote. You could just about walk right past a cop with a joint in hand and as long as nothing else is untoward you wouldn’t be pulled up.
    Take the Womad festival here in NP every year, the place reeks of pot, police on patrol, nothing happens. This pot thing is blown out of proportion. The police are very good usually with potheads, it’s the drinkers that are the worry for them, and they are very much aware of that fact.

    • That’s too much grace and favour relying on the police being easy. Get another firebrand in with a holy roller outlook and it could go all pear-shaped again. We need fewer laws, more guidelines, and more work with people to help young people to build goals for themselves, get them working in jobs that suit with something to achieve of their own choice, and halve the drug abuse.

      In the meantime by the sounds of it Trevor thinking that 20 is wrong, seems a good point. Can you have sex legally at 16? I know that some are finding out at 14. When can you legally drink? Marijuana the same? Should it be 18 for both? Age 20 is like putting your toe in the water when you want to go for a swim. Get real about the age. All this pussy footing about things that we should get done and can alter if they aren’t working but get started trying to achieve reasonable law.

      • I might have made the police sound appathetic towards cannibis, I meant no disrespect towards them, they will uphold the law if required. I was just trying to make the point that cannisbis use at a personal level causes very few problems and the Police must know this. It all depends on the person. A lot of professionals smoke the weed and hold down good jobs, have good work ethics and are very decent people, to the point that nobody knows they’re a pothead at all. Compare that to a heavy drinker, of which there are many, and is legal, it’s obvious who is or isn’t due to the large hangovers, disorientation and unplanned absences from work etc. Also and probably the major difference between Alcohol and Pot is the violence that often erupts at parties, on main streets downtown at night from very drunk male and females who get aggressive and abusive under that influence. Alcohol can make a lot of people really aggressive, and this is a legal product. It’s a very big problem in AO/NZ. I can think of 5 seperate fights I have intervened and broken up in the last 5 years all down to too much alcohol, didn’t know any of them and at considerable personal risk. It’s bloody annoying and very scary. This legal product does this. I’ve never, ever, seen stoned people do this. That’s a benefit I reckon IMHO.

  4. Dropping the drinking age to 18 has not improved the problems of uncontrolled drinking despite how it was sold at the time .The points for legalization of marajuana are valid if it was a perfect world . The biggest problem I see is that the age limit of 20 is really to low but for those that are going to try marajuana it is too high. This means there will still be a huge market for the criminal element to sell to and they know they need to get them on harder drugs before they turn 20. The current law is unfairly harsh on Maori and that needs to be sorted but it is not the only example of a unfair biase against them.

    • I am not sure but I think Trevor that certain volumes of drinking have gone down over the past few years.
      But there are still problems for sure with the young drinkers. Drinking culture is still strong in NZ. I was told off some years ago when I was happy that the guy who introduced the spirit mixes of RTDs was killed when his helicopter went down. The weasel said he had been surprised and concerned to find that teenagers were keen on drinking his brews. I think that Jim Anderton got the alcohol level brought down, and this guy showed his concern for his teenage consumers by dropping his levels to just a tiny bit below the legal limit which was still higher than wine. Can’t quote figures sorry. But such bad faith by that guy, he didn’t take the opportunity to bring them really well down and I think he would still have had a good trade. He lived in a place like a palace.

      But it may be that it is the spirits that keep the drinking problems high. The beer in supermarkets must give it a good a push up, and thank goodness they have to have an age limit check. Though there are ways around it for keen drinkers, get an older person to buy.

    • The issue I have with the age limit of 20 is a more harmful substance – alcohol is staying at 18.
      It sends a dangerous message to young adults that alcohol is safer than cannabis and that simply isnt the case.
      Alcohol is also a mind altering substance that can affect someone in later life, its the elephant in the room everybody is ignoring at the moment.

      • Exactly, it normalizes drinking into your culture, as a legal way of getting shitfaced, and very cheaply as well given the discount and special pricing. Mind you if pot was sold legally at a shop at say $500 an ounce bag this would represent more bang for you buck compared to cheap beers and RTD’s. Another win for the potheads!

    • Trevor:
      > Dropping the drinking age to 18 has not improved the problems of uncontrolled drinking despite how it was sold at the time

      As I remember it, the argument for lowering the age was about the double standard of allowing people to vote or join the army at 18 or 19, but not drink alcohol. But as it happens, harms related to alcohol use by young people have declined significantly since the legal drinking age changed to 18 in 1999. Evidence of that can be found on this site provided by Alcohol Healthwatch:

      “By 2004, the number of current drinkers was declining in both girls and boys.”

      “Following 2007, there have been continued declines in the the number of adolescents drinking, and among those that do drink, the number of drinking occasions per month is declining.”

      “In 2007, 61% of all students were current drinkers – this declined to 45% in 2012. The prevalence of weekly drinking declined from 17.8% in 2007 to 8.3% in 2012.”

      “The prevalence of binge drinking was 34% in 2007, declining to 23% in 2012.”

      > The biggest problem I see is that the age limit of 20 is really to low

      According to Professor Richie Poulton, director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, there is no conclusive evidence of cannabis use causing health problems from 18 onwards.

      The age needs to be 18, just like alcohol, for the same reasons of consistent treatment. Also because it would solve the problem you mention of 18-19 year old beings …

      > a huge market for the criminal element to sell to

      Those under 18 don’t have enough to income between them to make much of a market for anything. In a small market like NZ, it’s unlikely black market tinny houses would survive in competition with a legal, regulated cannabis industry anyway, but without the 18-19 year olds, they have no chance.

  5. I pray that the cannabis referendum passes.
    I concur, and what’s more I think that only curs and thoughtless people would be against it. To update myself I did my own backgrounding and pass this on though it may be regarded as too long, sorry. Perhaps it could go at the end after others have had their (shorter) says and not been swamped by this?

    My feelings: It was initiated by people who want to impose on society rigid behaviour patterns that suit the lawmakers. It is an authoritarian law, that attempted to maintain a monopoly on profits from alcohol, our chosen mood-enhancing drug for centuries, followed by tobacco another prime profit producer. This new drug had the features of both, an easily grown plant, and ‘peace and love man’ good vibes. It needed to be stamped out, sprayed out, helicopter hunted out. And it was connected to the poorer classes and especially the non-whites who were disproportionately involved in criminality. Keeping control of marijuana aided in keeping control of them; the two combined very satisfactorily. And so it goes as Kurt Vonnegut said resignedly. The authorities managed to harass and oppress the poor, even falsifying evidence at times to win a case and imprisonment.

    It has wrecked lives far more than would have occurred if legal and controlled. Now there are meths and P, and marijuana seems to be benign in comparison. But also in its mild form it has such huge alternative uses bringing commercial opportunities, that it cannot be kept as a pariah substance to beat the heads of uppity, curious, experimenting young people with. So for goodness sake, let’s move forward and undo our foolhardy legislation of 1975, which followed NZs ‘extraordinary’ Narcotics Act 1965* and then the USA Act of 1970 which toughened up their previous saner approaches.
    (USA 1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose.

    In New Zealand currently:
    The use of cannabis in New Zealand is regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which makes unauthorised possession of any amount of cannabis a crime. Cannabis is the fourth-most widely used recreational drug in New Zealand, after caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, and the most widely used illicit drug. In the population of more than four million, 13.4% of those aged 16–64 use cannabis. This ranks as the ninth-highest cannabis consumption level in the world.

    In New Zealand 1960’s:
    * The Police publicly took the view that marijuana created homicidal urges. Officer Bob Walton was dispatched in 1964 to learn more from his American contemporaries and, on his return, established New Zealand’s first drug squads and helped draft the extraordinary Narcotics Act 1965, which reversed the onus of proof in drug cases and set a penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment for possession of more than an ounce of pot. (“At the time, the Act was seen as draconian in relation to the problem,” noted the official Police tribute to Walton on his death in 2008.)

    For an interesting trawl through the history of NZ’s use of drugs Russell Brown wrote History Never Repeats published in August 2014 for the NZ Drug Foundation.

  6. The trouble with the Cannabis Referendum – it is actually happening – have never seen a clever dope head

      • countryboy,

        100% agree.

        I know lawyers, medical professionals, an architect, university lecturer,law enforcement etc etc. All very sharp individuals. All routinely enjoy weed.

        Those that say all weed smokers are mentally challenged stoners have been listening to way too many myths. When they see someone sleeping rough drinking wine from a bottle in a paper bag, do they feel that indivudual represents all wine drinkers? Should we make wine illegal because we have a few lost souls out there? Would that be fair and reasonable to the sensible wine drinkers that enjoy their tipple responsibly? If so, that’s the sort of hypocrisy weed smokers have been dealing with for decades.

        • “Those that say all weed smokers are mentally challenged stoners have been listening to way too many myths.”

          Yes indeed.

          Dean’s comment is reflective of decades of propaganda that has entrenched a myopic one eyed view (e.g. reefer madness) of cannabis consumption. Little do folk like this realise that they’ve been #programmed to believe the propaganda reflects reality.

          So many of a specific cohort or generation think like this, which in my opinion is cultural more than anything else. For example, the boomer generation were conditioned to believe and accept authority – you know, the ‘government’ or ‘news paper’ would never mislead or lie about something like this, types.

          Fortunately for those of us that are open minded and understand propaganda is simply misinformation, the boomer+ cohort is now or is very soon to be not the majority voting block. Gen x and beyond have lived in a more liberal culture, and more than likely have consumed cannabis in the past, continue to consume privately, or have friends that do and couldn’t give a hoot. All going well, these folk represent a ‘silent’ majority who clearly understand that prohibition is a waste of time, money, lives AND entrenches revenue streams for organised crime. Therefore, while these folk won’t speak publicly or campaign for the YES vote – they will vote YES on their ballot.

    • Family First supporter right? Brainwashed by what uncle Bob says.
      Such a good upstanding religious person who can never tell any lies.
      Lets just totally ignore what scientists with degrees say and just go with an upstanding citizen with a degree in economics, Im sure he would know more about drugs and health than any of those other experts right?
      Grow a brain idiot.

  7. All ‘drugs’ . Not just poor old pot. But all drugs must be legal. Every single one of them. That means, to those of you who are drunk, yep, all of them.
    The real harm will come from those who can’t, or more chillingly refuse to understand why that’s important.
    I was told once: “There’s nothing as sure as a closed mind. ”
    Look? Drugs are great. Lets be honest. Drugs are fucking awesome. Pot? Lovely. Coke? fabulous. Meth? Someone once told me that sex on P is pretty good. I took their word for that rather than trying it for myself because I think I have pretty good sex as it is. I also watched this…
    Jessa Reed – Meth Pee – This Is Not Happening
    Keeping ALL drugs illegal also creates everybody’s favourite addiction, a market edge in making money.
    Jesus Christ! Portugal? C’mon? WTF?
    Here’s the gist.

    • All drugs in NZ?

      Whoa … One step at a time. Let’s get cannabis sorted tehn maybe look at others.

      I honesty cannot see how meth or synnies should be legalised. They do massive damage – similar to that of alcohol. I think more stringent measures are needed for alcohol.

      Certain drugs, like heroin and those of similar ilk, can kills but this is because of the legal status of the drug and the fact that users are not sure about doseage – and there is a very fine line between being smashed on heroin and death.

      Anyways …

      • > I honesty cannot see how meth or synnies should be legalised. They do massive damage

        The evidence is that drug-related harms decrease when you stop criminalizing people for having drugs for personal use or social sharing. That evidence is consistent across the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries that have tried various kinds of decriminalization.

        Alcohol, as you say, also does massive damage. Making it illegal made the problems so much worse it was made legal again. What makes you think it’s any different with equally dangerous drugs like opiates or amphetamines?

        As for drugs like LSD and MDMA, which are much less dangerous than alcohol in their pure form, making them illegal is just stupid. In fact, it makes buying them *more* dangerous because unlike licensed retailers, black market dealers face no regulation or quality control. They can sell anything as “acid” or “ecstasy”, and the substitutes are often much more dangerous than the real thing, see the second half of this page:

  8. I share your prayer Bomber. It’s well past time for the epic hypocrisy on the topic to be kicked right into touch and beyond. We need our young people to grow up respecting the law but they see so much hypocrisy and scaremongering bullshit on this all-important subject that respect for our laws is needlessly being lost. Cannabis does not cause schizophrenia. Cannabis is not a stepping stone to meth and heroin etc. All myths.

    Everyone intending on voting in the referendum should watch this movie / doco. Long but well worth the time and effort. Best I’ve seen on the subject.

  9. On the Money Country, same as guns, outlaw either and they become more attractive to Outlaws,
    If the dumbass Government controlled the distribution and price, there,d be no profits for ”Organized” ”Disorganized” Crime, really GW was correct in that this is about Control not drugs, what hes left out is the Spy agency’s involvement is smuggling and marketing these substances, how else to fund a Black Budget
    Where We Go One We Go All

  10. Perhaps requesting some help from the likes of Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. a.k.a Snoop Dogg and some of the people in his industry ( the American cannabis industry) would be one way to get a bit of “hey look this is worth money and it lowers harm etc”. I do suppose it is hard to motivate certain people.

  11. Ben Franks would be my pick for someone to trot out in the the last minute.

    He has a company poised to capture the professional athlete market, for whom cannabis helps them, their careers and ultimately their earning power for their families. Rugby is religion in NZ.

    Put like that, that this substance can help provide for your children, definitely puts a shine on the responsible use of cannabis.

    Props and front rowers definitely have an air of authority about them too. A few league stars too.
    Instead of coming from a feminized squeaky voiced ex pollie who probably divides more than he joins.

    I think the stoners will actually turn out for the voting on this one. And the ones that dont probably will respond better to the large sports hero than Nandor.

    A hero farmer or farming icon would help with the rural vote. Country Calendar have done their bit by promoting hemp farmer stories, but probably more can be done esp at the business end of things running up to the last week of election.

    I believe strategies are already in place for this, and as the world turns, the odds on this referendum to pass are stronger than they appear, though the powers that be don’t want to instill any false sense of security, and also don’t want the ban it brigade to be left uninformed or grudge carrying and feeling butt sore.

    • Very good points Rastus. well said. I reckon the people will come out to vote as well. All these surveys that say 50/50 are bound to be boomers mainly and most of them are conservative.

    • I reckon the people will come out to vote on this, a comfortable victory. These 50/50 surveys are probably boomer voters who hate change.

  12. It fucks me off Martyn, a bunch of pencil neck suits who have never used the stuff use a bunch of statistics collected during prohibition as evidence why such heavy restrictions on cannabis must occur. Not once have they sought balanced evidence from the grassroots of this movement and as such the laws being created the average cannabis user is balking at, some dont really want to vote yes for this because they feel the govt is actually going to make their lives worse having it legal.

  13. Bomber:
    > I suggest grabbing someone at this late stage who has infinite credibility with that community, someone like Nandor to front a campaign to get the stoner community to the polls.

    What about Metiria Turei? She’s endorsing campaign materials for MakeItLegal:

  14. The cannabis referendum is suffering the same problem as other political issues; the mainstream media. Trumpian agitators, like Mike Hosking, get prime coverage. Interest groups, who have a coherent argument, are only covered by fringe media or in social media.

    The headline of this article appears to misunderstand campaigning. Why focus on convincing Stoners they should support cannabis legalisation? They already believe that so that is a wasted effort. For this group the important message is that they need to vote as this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see cannabis law reform.

    Nandor was mentioned and a Google search of “Nandor cannabis” shows he is involved in the MakeItLegal cannabis legalisation campaign. The fact he has not been in the press more is a mix of personal choice and the shallowness of the mainstream media. Keep in mind that politicians that have been in govt for several years carry baggage that can make people focus on the person rather than the message. As noted, Metiria, has a background role in the MakeItLegal campaign. My point about the personality politics getting in the way of the issue applies here as well.

    For disclosure reasons note that I have a relationship with a key campaigner in MakeItLegal but my opinions are purely my own.

  15. It will only take one simple thing to reach ALL of the target audience…
    What is that thing? MUSIC
    One week before the referendum,
    a series of gigs AK > WELLI > CHCH > DUNEDIN
    Any of Fat Freddys Drop, Lady Six, Shapeshifter, Salmonella Dub etc
    Problem solved. Calm down.

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