Kia ora! Your guide to cannabis-based voting in the election, plus cannabis has a waste problem, stinky tennis and more, this week on Marijuana Media on 95bFM with hosts Jonny and Corey from bFM Drive and Chris Fowlie from NORML – thanks to The Hempstore!
Cannabis-based voting in the election
This week was the last day of parliament, and overseas voting begins in less than a month ahead of polling day on 14 October.
Radio New Zealand has produced a guide to party policy but, so far, the only mention of cannabis there is from the Greens: “regulate personal use of cannabis”.
A new policy guide from Interest.co.nz summarises the Greens policy, with Chloe as spokesperson, and also shows ACT, Labour, National, NZ First, Te Pāti Māori and TOP all with policy “Not yet available on their website.”
The lack of cannabis or drugs policies from parties other than The Greens, at 30 August 2023.
Neither guide includes the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, which is regularly showing at 1 per cent in polls, around the same as TOP, the New Conservatives and Freedoms NZ. For that 1 per cent (at least) cannabis is the top issue.
Never forget the 49% who voted Yes to a fully legal regulated and taxed cannabis market – and an even higher proportion of Labour and Green voters want change. Many of the Nope backers and voters say they would have supported decriminalisation, but no one has moved to make even that happen. So, what to do?
To protect the reforms we have got, and keep moving in that direction, conscientious cannabis consumers should vote for candidates and parties who will not take us backwards. Their party websites may avoid mentioning cannabis, but their spokespeople keep on talking and sometimes they are actually worth listening to.
Pharmacy Today has covered a debate, MC’d by RNZ journalist Guyon Espiner, held on Monday night at Wellington College which featured spokespeople for all the major parties discussing mental health and drug law reform. Drawing on that, an ODT article from last year (where political parties stand on drugs), and NORML’s “Toke The Vote 2020” guide, here is what we know.
Presenting our 2023 Guide to Political Party Pot Policies
Green Party: ★★★★★ The rational vote. The Greens pushed hardest for medicinal cannabis, got us the referendum, the only parliamentarian actively advocating for change is Chloe Swarbrick, and the Greens are the only major party that actually has a drugs policy. The Green Party 2023 drug law reform policy (“A healthy approach to alcohol and other drugs”) says:
Repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 with an evidence-based approach, which reduces harm and treats drug use as a health issue.
Regulate the personal use of cannabis to minimise the risk of harm to users, their whānau, and communities. This will include tight restrictions on advertising and the location of retail outlets.
Improve the framework for medicinal cannabis and create a new framework for trials of therapeutic uses of other controlled substances such as psychedelics.
This is all great stuff. While there is no mention of decriminalising all drugs, the reference to retail outlets suggests “regulate personal use of cannabis” means full legalisation of cannabis (something like the referendum model).
The full Green Party drug law reform policy 2016-2023, which spells out it also includes home cultivation of cannabis and expunges criminal convictions, says under their policy “Evidence from overseas jurisdictions with legal cannabis markets is assessed to determine which model best minimises harm”.
In the Pharmacy Today article, Parties go head to head on mental health, Greens spokesperson Chloe Swarbrick advocates a consistent and evidence-based approach to managing all drugs, including alcohol, and said they would repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and remove the profit motive from these substances.
ALCP: ★★★★★ The protest vote. As a co-founder of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party back in 1996 they will always have a place in my heart, and ticking the leaf on the ballot sends a message that this is your number one issue. But realistically, do they have any chance of getting to 5%?
TOP: ★★★★★? The principled vote. Last election TOP had possibly the best cannabis policy on offer. In 2023 they advocate regulating cannabis like alcohol, with this on the TOP website, under “law and order”:
Legalise, regulate and tax the sale and supply of cannabis, by incorporating it into the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, and remove cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
Te Pāti Māori: ★★★★? The unknown vote. No written policy yet, but Te Pāti Māori told the Otago Daily Times they support the decriminalisation of all drugs, would “wipe the slate on all low-level drug convictions”, and enable medical professionals to prescribe certain illicit drugs as part of addiction treatment programmes. They say “Our current drug laws are only fit for purpose if that purpose is to continue to oppress and imprison tangata whenua.”
Labour: ★★★ The sensible vote. Made medicinal cannabis legal, kick-started local production and licensed cultivation, licensed substance checking services, and brought in police discretion leading to a huge reduction in arrests (although the remaining arrests continue to be biased against Māori). Any further progress will probably require a Labour-led Government. They still get points off for Jacinda Ardern not voicing her support for a Yes vote, and for not progressing decriminalisation since then. At the Wellington debate, Labour’s Dr Verrall said:
Labour would not be making any further moves towards decriminalisation of drugs but its advice to prosecutors to exercise discretion in these cases remains in place.
NZ First: ★★ The contrarian vote. Winston’s party insisted on the cannabis referendum rather than direct law reform – and we still don’t know how he voted.
National: ★ The prohibitionist vote. Former leader Judith Collins instructed all National MPs to cast their personal votes against the cannabis referendum. They block voted against medicinal cannabis. Don’t forget National said they would not guarantee passing the Referendum Bill, even if a majority had voted Yes.
But this week, in the Pharmacy Today article, National’s Matt Doocey supports decriminalisation but not legalisation of drugs, adding some people need a “line in the sand” to know a behaviour is wrong.
It is progress that they are saying these things at all. But these are personal views – not National Party policy. And as Russell Brown pointed out on a Facebook post I was tagged into:
The National Party has opposed every single drug reform measure to come up for a vote in the past six years. The Parliamentary party is the most conservative it’s been in decades. Matt Doocey is on the more rational side personally, but no, they are not going to suddenly reverse course and be drug reformers.
Russell further warned we should hope that if National lead the next government, they won’t reverse the substance checking legislation or ban the prescription of cannabis flower. “having carried on like both those things were the end of the world when they were legislated.”
UPDATE: Matt Doocey was misquoted. A video of the debate now online appears to show Doocey opposing both decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis – true to previous National Party positions.
ACT: ★★ The hypocritical vote. Libertarians and freedom lovers should be champions of drug law reform, and ACT told the Otago Daily Times: “ACT supported having a referendum on cannabis law reform. Most ACT MPs voted yes. We are sceptical about prohibition in general and don’t believe it has been a successful policy on drugs.”
But ACT seldom mention it and don’t do anything about it. Aside from Simon Court’s revelation of being shot over cannabis as a teenager, and Seymour’s confession he had tried the Devil’s Lettuce, ACT has no official drugs policy. But according to Pharmacy Today, at the Wellington debate this week ACT’s deputy leader Brooke van Velden:
supported decriminalising drug users and providing them addiction support services but cracking down on drug suppliers. She was against Ms Swarbricks’ proposal to ban advertising of alcohol because “people need to have free choice”.
For more, listen to the Marijuana Media pot-cast:
In other news…
Auckland University researchers tackling medicinal cannabis industry’s waste problem
University of Auckland researchers say they have found a sustainable solution to help tackle the medicinal cannabis industry’s waste problem, which includes tons of unused plant matter, cultivation trimmings, discarded extraction chemicals and trashed testing samples.
Medicinal cannabis has very strict rules and, in my experience with Zeacann, every scrap must be accounted for. You need to design a secure and compliant waste removal and destruction procedure. We used an autoclave, then secure incineration with medical waste. Others use composting. A lot goes to landfill.
The NZ Herald report, ‘Weed to Gold’, said the new process involves “destroying active cannabinoids from the waste and then turning the material into solid or liquid fertiliser that can be used to help grow new cannabis plants.”
Research lead Associate Professor Saeid Baroutian said “It’s a perfect example of bringing the circular economy to the medicinal cannabis sector.” From the press release:
Under high temperature and pressure, the material in cannabis plants go through a chemical transformation process that converts the wet plant waste into a dark, crumbly and dry substance that looks like charcoal. This solid product is called “hydrochar” but unlike charcoal or coal, it is not harmful to the environment. It’s carbon and nutrient-rich and can be added to soil to improve fertility and water retention for better cannabis plant growth. The liquid product from the process is also rich in solubilised carbon and valuable nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which can be recovered and used as a biofertiliser to help cannabis plants grow healthier and faster.
Cannabis creates a stink at the US Open
1News also reported this week the US tennis open is smelling like “Snoop Dogg’s living room”. Court 17, in particular, has become notorious among players in recent years for the distinctive, pungent odour of good cannabis. This time the United States Tennis Association conducted its own investigation to weed out the source of the smell and found it was coming from nearby Corona Park, just outside the gates of the tennis stadium.
It’s now legal in New York for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrates, and to smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed.
According to the report, security staffer Rojas said cannabis odours have become an inescapable fact of life. “Turn every corner and you smell it. It’s part of our world now. You’ve got to get used to it.” He would tell players who complain “Try it. … It might help you relax.”
Financial services denied to legal hemp and medicinal cannabis businesses: The closure of another Buy-Now-Pay-Later scheme has impacted the affordability of legal medicinal cannabis through two of Aotearoa’s biggest providers, CannaPlus+ clinic and Nga Hua Pharmacy. According to a recent report on Newsroom, HealthNow – which is defunct now – was one of the few lay buy schemes available to the sector.
Cannabis businesses, including legal hemp and medicinal cannabis, are often denied financial services and this is due to the US federal prohibition on cannabis. Cannabis is legal in 23 states but remains illegal at the federal level. That means global financial services firms such as credit card providers and processers say they can’t service hemp and medicinal cannabis firms, regardless of compliance in their own country. The SAFE Banking Act, currently before the US Senate, aims to fix this.
Australian study of driving on medicinal cannabis: 1News reported this week a new 18-month trial, using a closed track in Victoria, will look at the level of impairment medicinal cannabis can cause to see when it is safe for them to get behind the wheel.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in both New Zealand and Australia. But while Kiwis have a legal defence if using their prescribed weed in accordance with their doctor’s instructions, patients in Aussie have no protection even if they are using legally prescribed products.
Victoria Legalise Cannabis MP David Ettershank said “There have been dozens of studies that have been replicated many times to show that medicinal cannabis patients can drive safely,” and medicinal cannabis users should be treated like any other person on prescription medication.
More findings from the NZ Drug Trends survey: 12 per cent of respondents reported experiencing some form of victimisation while purchasing drugs in the last year. Cannabis purchases accounted for 49% of victimisations.
- International Overdose Awareness Day was on Thursday 31 August. 171 people overdosed last year.
- Substance Testing @ The Hemp Storeevery First Thursday, thanks to the NZ Drug Foundation. Dancesafe reagent kits available here. Our next hosted clinic is Thurs 7 September, or find one here.
- NORML’s Cannabis Roadside Ralliesin Auckland: High Noon on Ponsonby Road Sat 9 Sept & Sat 23 Sept, Grey Lynn shops Sat 7 Oct. Details on facebook or norml.
- CannaPosium7-8 October at the Surrey Hotel, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Tickets here.
- Auckland J DaySaturday 2nd December in Albert Park (postponed from May – details here).
Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with your hosts bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show here or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at 95bFM.com (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!