A Cannabis ‘Yes’ Vote, Policy Development Fit For Our Times


This time round, Lockdown for Auckland has seemed more serious -not just an aberration. Even though Level Three ended last night, the collective response seems to have a different permanence, as behaviours and systems of protection become more entrenched. Though for some, maybe not so much – as with those 500 protesting against Lockdown at Aotea Square on Saturday, or people enjoying Takapuna beach without masks or social distance. But community transmission really does mean it’s in our community. It’s pretty close to my community. -Someone later diagnosed with Covid went into one of my ‘local’ supermarkets, Lincoln Rd Pak and Save. It’s also one of the country’s busiest supermarkets and where the mythical two degrees of Auckland’s separation might really exist. It was confusingly suggested that everyone from South and West Auckland get tested. But I’m too scared to leave the house.

Eight months into Covid, we can see the impacts of the world’s government’s responses, and their failures to respond, in death tolls and infection statistics; in global systems already undergoing change; in regional affairs as leaders scurry to find ‘bubbles’ they can align to; in new national debt; in our stalled community activities; in our shops, with their ‘spit guards’, and their queues in the rain; in our homes with our home cooking and our food delivery services. In the way we work, we’re adapting, more or less – this week I joined Zoom meetings with seventy year olds, a friend’s naked child, and a cat. The rules of engagement have changed, blurring personal and professional boundaries when working from home. And there are changes in ourselves. We’re checking for resilience, worrying about the future, wondering if we’ll ever travel again. Eighteen months ago, people walking around in masks were outcasts – now, those who don’t are unusual. Everything feels precarious – not just our jobs. The potential closure of the NZ oil refinery at Marsden Point, the NZ Steel mill at Glenbrook and Tiwai Point smelter in Invercargill show that we are also at the end of an industrial era.

If politics is a contest of ideas, policies as few they are, seem unimaginative, uninspiring, unfit for the task. National’s promise to strip back freshwater reforms, to bring back the ninety day ‘fire at will’ period and to remove rest and lunch breaks are regressive and rhetorical. There are unprincipled concessions via the Provincial Growth Fund and ‘shovel ready projects’ at every turn – not just from the Greens. These funds have created a goldrush, leading to perverse and perhaps ill-considered largesse that should be subject to better rigour – and not just from the Greens! It’s election time, there’s money to be had, like most Coalition Cabinet Ministers, no wonder James Shaw wanted to be part of the rush. This week there have also been concessions to farmers, and to the economy itself. Lockdown V2 is costing $500million a week – so the economy is taking precedence over (measured) public health risks, though L2 seems more permissive than the risk of the disease would require. Even if the rules from next week allow us to mingle – at a distance, and with masks- I’m happy to work from home. It’s not so much that the disease might kill me, or my elderly parents, but that I should be a carrier, or sicken with the disease but not die. Being agoraphobic and living in the country suddenly has potentially life-saving benefits.

This week though, we Aucklanders will be officially let out of our Covid cages, allowed again to commute and to drink takeaway coffee. Auckland’s ongoing drought, the stock market hacks and California wildfires this week remind us that for all its destruction, Covid isn’t the only show in town.

Today’s polling suggesting that those voters previously uncertain about the cannabis referendum are now trending towards a ‘no’ vote is a disappointing reflection on the conservativism and caution of New Zealand. Maybe we are just not as progressive as we think we are. The scale of the issues in question in this year’s election referenda seem disproportionate, but each significant and important. On the one hand we have euthanasia, and on the other, legal access to a plant. It will be ironic if we vote for the right to die but not to consume marijuana in the privacy of our own homes. I’ll be voting yes for both referenda, and know that regardless of the outcome, certainly the consumption of cannabis will continue to prevail in our society. What’s at stake is the opportunity to destigmatise its use, leading to public health improvements, potentially reduced consumption, fewer burdens on the criminal justice system, -less use of pot-charges as ‘gateway criminalisation’ for young Maori and Pasifika men, and less power in the hands of gangs. The bonus is that poor rural communities who are usually the disproportionate victims of punitive drug laws (and alcohol’s permissiveness), will have the opportunity to develop a new economy from the legal and properly managed sale of cannabis if it’s legalised here for the first time. There is prospect of harm reduction all round.

So while political parties are conservative, cautious, and economically neo-liberal more than they are socially liberal, New Zealanders have a chance to drive policy directly. In cannabis law reform we can continue to put public health first, as we have done with Covid-19, but also support economic recovery for impoverished communities and for the country at large. Reducing social harm, prison costs, health impacts, and supporting economic, social – and environmental resilience and self-sufficiency, are all positive outcomes from a ‘yes’ vote in the cannabis referendum and subsequent legislation. That would be a policy development fit for our times.


  1. No to cannabis and what the hell is level 2.5 meant to mean? As far as I know there is levels 1 to 4.

    Not levels 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 or 4.5. That just seems like a govt hedging their bets. Sorry, turned off by all of this obfuscation. Told Bradbury straight in :

    Jacinda calls on public solidarity to combat pandemic | The …

    But he seems to not want to publish things that conflict with his agenda. Sad. And if that’s so, I’ll no to cannabis. I don’t want my 25 year old son wacked out on the job. Not that he will, either. And the next time you Gaia, communist or woke folk want to blaspheme Jesus’s name… lets ask you why you don’t blaspheme Buddha, Allah or Vishnu. As a reminder, – there’s a whole bunch of Christians still left in this country as a huge voting block and they / we / I don’t take kindly to condescending diminutive titles such as ‘ sweet baby Jesus’ , ‘for the love of Christ’ etc from the Left… the hypocrisy gets galling.

    Getting sick of of the crap.

    If you want support and understanding, then don’t alienate people. To the subject at hand? nah,- I don’t think so. You know that guy who brought in synthetic cannabis a few years back? He was my choice of lead guitarist in my old heavy metal band from years ago when I decided to leave. As for the herb? Yeah maybe in heavily controlled govt medicinal regulations. But judging by current political standards of enforcement ?… nah…….

    Think of Samoa and the measles epidemic.

    That’s how effective we are. And that’s how caring we are. In other words we don’t. All care and no responsibility. Huge social costs. Sorry Chloe for your brilliant articulation , I’ll be voting party vote Green so don’t worry. But this bashing of Christianity is getting up my nose.

    I’m more versed in this scene than most of you corny dabblers.

    ( Don’t Worry About a Thing )

    • Oh no @ WC ! You’re a bloody God botherer !
      A Presbyterian bible walloper tried to convince my mum to adopt me out. I’ve forgotten exactly how many off’s she told him to fuck but it was quite a few from memory. I’ve seen the mindless adulation of The Great Invisible Power Ranger in the Sky cause more harm and despair than anything else combined.
      The humm diddly who ha’ers and bent over, faux pious, hump backed secret keepers in their robes designed, no doubt, to cloak their choir boy collections are a danger to humanity and my sympathies lie with the North Sentinel people for having to go to the trouble of burying that arrogant Japanese imbecile who thought that infecting them with a brain washing tactic to spread debt and disease to them while exploiting them was a great idea. Turns out it wasn’t such a great idea, was it Japanese christian imbecile?
      And as the ever fabulous Steven Fry once said during an interview when he was asked ;
      ” What if, after you die, you discover there really is a God and you were allowed one question to ask of him? ”
      Steven Fry replied ” Bone cancer in children? What’s that about?”
      Cannabis? Fabulous stuff. My only reservation is that kids younger than, say, 20, would smoke the stuff regularly.
      Cannabis is an extraordinary material in many ways but I very much doubt it’s for the developing brain and mind.
      The poor old hippocampus has enough on its plate without having to deal with a stoner kid confusing things by getting the long suffering amygdala wasted all the time.
      My opinion, and mercifully for most perhaps means fuck all, is that all drugs should be decriminalised. Every single one of them. Particularly P.
      P is a very dangerous substance made far more so for it’s illegal status.
      When an addictive drug is illegal it becomes profitable and in AO/NZ? Where the costs of living are merely a rort and life is hard at best, particularly for the unloved and unlovely, P is quickly adopted and absorbed into the underground.
      The only way to wipe P out is to make [it] a medical health issue, NOT a criminal justice issue.
      And I’m voting Labour/Labour. I can’t bare the thought of having to see and hear the Jizz and Judy show for three long years or longer.
      On that note…
      Southland, Otago and Canterbury farmers along SH1? What the fuck!?
      Are you really as ignorant as many assume? Because, honestly, if you really, truely think the natzo’s and jude and jizz are promising then you really, really, really need to get out more.
      I drove from Bluff to Christchurch and I can tell you, national party hoardings out numbered Labour ten to one. And there were more than one or two act and fucking odious new conservative ones also.
      As a farmer, I’m embarrassed.

      • Class response Countryboy.
        The only thing I’d add would be wasn’t it a religious faction that flew into the twin towers?
        On the subject of the cannabis referendum, one thing is for certain, what ever we are doing now ain’t working!

  2. As a NZRN I have been looking forward to being able to grow 2 cannabis plants on my property. ( I need 4 so as to meet my needs.) I have been looking forward to use what is a VERY SAFE “drug” that has been demonised by the ignorant. The police have been/are also shockingly ignorant about this “drug”. Cannabis was demonised by Big Pharma in the USA decades ago because it was far more useful than BP’s toxic, poisonous chemicals – which all of their “drugs” are. All drugs only suppress symptoms – they cure/heal NOTHING!

    • I hoe that when my heart gives up again or my friends cancer returns you are not his nurse especially on the days you have been on the waggy tobacco

      • You mean the overtired nurse whose forced to work as a slave to Nationals non lunch break policy. Your a gonna my son.

          • Not quite sure that correlates with National slave wage policy, however no, not me, we need dickheads like Hosking in this world to remind us how grateful we are to have Ardern leading our great country. I gather you didn’t migrate to my country because of Hosking’s allure Trev.

      • So, bottom line: Your view is that it’s not a moral obligation to be held accountable by qualified experts in the field for claims you make to a massive audience. Is that really how we want our community to operate?

  3. Reading today that very bright articulate young pacifika are having to leave school to work to support their families where parents have been excluded (made redundant, call it what you like) because of covid. I’ll tell you what I think is driving the pro-cannabis lobby – racist entitlement with a hefty dose of ‘not in my back yard’ sense of exceptionalism thrown in.

  4. It would be massively gutting but not surprising if the legalisation gets voted down. Kiwis are painfully conservative and sheep like – sorry no pun intended. Most of those opposing the law change are extremely ignorant of the facts around the impacts of cannabis and complicit in their lack of condemnation of the damages of alcohol and tobacco.
    The only hope for the law changing is for the youth vote to be activated. If this doesn’t happen we are condemned to more of the same ongoing failed drug policy that has blighted this country (and others) for about 100 years. The scientific evidence against cannabis is minimal and for is quite substantial. And don’t forget that voting yes for legalisation DOESN”T mean you actually have to use it! It is a bit like watching television – if you don’t like it then don’t watch it – TV is not banned due to all the shit that is on it … FFS don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!!!

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