J Day today celebrates Auckland’s cannabis culture; Prospects for reform under the new Government

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Aucklanders celebrate the Big Smoke’s cannabis culture this weekend at J Day, and we examine prospects for cannabis law reform under the new National-led government on this week on Marijuana Media on 95bFM with Chris Fowlie from NORML and Jonny from bFM Drive – thanks to The Hempstore!

 

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J Day celebrates Auckland’s cannabis culture today

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New Zealand’s biggest cannabis event is today. J Day is Auckland’s annual celebration of our Kiwi cannabis culture and a protest against prohibition, held in Albert Park every year since 1992.

NORML and friends presents the 31st Annual J Day, usually held on the first Saturday in May every year but this year postponed due to heavy rain and waterlogging at Albert Park.

J Day is now Saturday 2nd December – with a new government, at the start of summer.

Come along and show your support for sensible cannabis laws. Find out what’s happening post-referendum. Learn about medicinal cannabis. Meet people and learn something new.

The cannabis themed event features musical performances on the mighty JAFA Mafia sound system, with a range of informative speakers, market stalls, food trucks, and information booths. Cannabis and hemp petitions, products, hemp foods and more. A medical zone features herbalists and doctors to answer your questions.

J Day will proceed rain or shine but at this stage it’s looking “all good” with a large high centred over Albert Park. With a new government it’s important we show up and be present.

The campaign is not over for sensible and fair cannabis laws in Aotearoa. With 69% of voters backing legalisation or decriminalisation in a post-referendum poll, and reform happening all around the world, J Day supports Kiwis to make change happen.

One in twenty New Zealanders use cannabis medicinally – including around 75,000 Auckland residents. J Day is where our diverse community – including patients and caregivers – can meet, share experiences, and learn more about cannabis and its associated culture.

Prospects for cannabis reform under the new government

National, Act and NZ First have formed a government, with a coalition agreement they have signed up to. Notably, their program does not mention cannabis in any way. There is no explicit ban on cannabis law reform (unlike previous coalition agreements with Peter Dunne).

The previous six years led by Labour saw the amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act to legalise medicinal cannabis, license substance checking services, and require police to use their discretion to not pursue low level drug offences.

On the campaign trail

Prior to the election Luxon said he was “happy with the current settings.” So that should mean these remain intact.

With National MPs all block voting No in the 2020 cannabis referendum, all three parties talking up being “tough on crime”, with the new coalition seemingly keen to erase the legacy of the previous Labour government, it’s tempting to write off any chance of further cannabis law reform. But maybe think again.

New Health minister Dr Shane “Ciga” Reti wanted a much tighter medical cannabis scheme with no access to flower, back in 2018. But he also supported decriminalisation in 2020. And Matt Doocey, who was on the Cross-Party Mental Health and Addictions Wellbeing Group alongside Chlӧe Swarbrick, is now associate Health (mental health, and potentially drugs?). Doocey was the keynote speaker at the NZ Drug Foundation’s AGM on Friday.

New Transport minister Simoen Brown is promising to ramp up testing drivers for drugs, using oral swabs which do not detect impairment but recent exposure to selected drugs (and record false positives 20% or more of the time). That ain’t good, but let’s not  forget this is a law passed by Labour.

National’s partner Act is promising to send more people to jail – but they also noted their MPs mostly voted Yes in the referendum, and said “We are sceptical about prohibition in general and don’t believe it has been a successful policy on drugs.” Act also supported the substance testing bill.

New Zealand First says all social issues should go to referendums – and they gave us the cannabis referendum in the first place. They’re a roadblock on going in either direction. That could be a good thing.

We can be optimistic – if optimism is defined as “please don’t make it any worse”.

The coalition agreement

In the coalition agreement which sets out their programme for this term the only two drug law reforms are

(1) Act’s policy to re-legalise pseudoephedrine, the over-the-counter common cold medicine which became a source for domestic meth manufacture; and

(2) Repealing the prohibition on tobacco which was coming into effect.

Although lowly ranked at 45 and 46 in the government’s 100-day plan, both policies are anti-prohibitionist.

Notably, the coalition agreement and the 100-day plan contain no mention of changing the Medical Cannabis Scheme, ending licensed substance checking, or forcing the police to arrest more drug users.

Un-banning pseudoephedrine

This could bizarrely support a “Buy Local” domestic meth industry by allowing domestic P cooks to once again compete with transnational smugglers (See: BREAKING BAD ACT wants domestic meth production to soar – their most controversial policy to date!).

But according to a Radio NZ report (New Zealand’s meth flood) meth has never been more available, or cheaper, and the ban simply handed the market to transnational smugglers – a whole new level of criminal.

Last month, Chris Wilkins, a Massey University drug policy expert, told the Herald New Zealand is now so “awash” with meth a ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine is largely “redundant” in stemming supply.

In the Herald this week Act says this denied people an effective medicine for no gain.

The key point is that this is an anti-prohibitionist policy and if similar thinking were applied to cannabis, we would have a government legalising weed.

Repealing the prohibition on tobacco

Some progressives have expressed shock and horror, and it does seem grubby to be funding tax cuts with tobacco taxes. But that tobacco ban was always stupid and weird.

Tobacco is just as addictive as heroin but used by 10 times as many people, so the misery and lucrative, violent illicit market would be immense.

Would this have got the same reaction if a government had ludicrously tried to prohibit alcohol with a rising minimum age, and then a subsequent government had undone that?

What if National had promised to un-ban cannabis like they are un-banning tobacco? The reaction seems hypocritical.

Taxes from drugs

The more blatant hypocrisy is wanting to take the tax on tobacco but forego the potential tax revenue from legal cannabis.

Prime Minister Luxon told the media his government is rolling back smokefree legislation because restricting the availability of tobacco would increase the untaxed illicit market.

But as Herald reader Ken Taylor noted in a letter to the editor this week, “When asked if restricting the availability of cannabis had the same effect, he dodged the question.”

According to BERL, cannabis legalisation would generate $1 billion in tax revenue and 3000 legit jobs.

Luxon seems to understand the futility of prohibition – but will he act?

Show your support – come to J Day!

J Day is presented by NORML & The Hempstore. Come along and show your support. Saturday 2 December in Albert Park, high noon to 4:20. Details here. Do not miss this one!

In other news this week…

Another week, another parade of violence, beatings and dodgy people who shouldn’t be providing drugs to anyone you care about. It’s depressing, entirely predictable and will keep on coming for as long as prohibition remains.

French Polynesia scraps drug law: Radio New Zealand Pacific News confirmed what we foreshadowed two weeks ago when Tahiti law reform campaigner Phil Cathelain appeared on Marijuana Media: French Polynesia’s Territorial Assembly has this week scrapped the existing laws on therapeutic cannabis use:

A new, revised text is now in the pipeline to legalise the import of cannabis and related substances, as part of a longer-term plan to develop local production, including the cultivation of hemp.

It has been announced it will be tabled in January 2024

Earlier this month, French Polynesia’s pro-independence President Moetai Brotherson said … the first step will be to legalise the import of cannabis and related substances, first for therapeutic purposes and later possibly for recreational use.

Australian drug law reform: Ahead of a Drug Summit to be hosted in NSW next year, former Premier Bob Carr – who hosted a similar summit in 1999 – has called for “courage”.

This week the NSW Greens introduced a bill to license up to four pill-testing sites, including one in a fixed location. The Legalise Cannabis Party also introduced a bill, to legalise the personal consumption of cannabis.

In Victoria, a private member’s bill introduced this week by Legalise Cannabis Victoria proposed legalising personal adult consumption but not in public, and for up to six plants grown at home.

Debate on the Bill prompted the usual outpouring of admissions of past use, including from state Premier Jacinta Allan Sand opposition leader John Pesutto – but always “a long time ago” or “when I was at university”.

Legalise Cannabis MP David Ettershank told AAP it was safe to assume more MPs had consumed the herb.

“With legalising cannabis, it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, it’s a question of when and how.”

Meanwhile the Australian Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Practitioners says the prescribing regime for psilocybin and MDMA, which came into effect on 1st July, is “not fit for purpose” and, with treatment costing around $20,000, this “may push desperate vulnerable patients to unregulated therapists where real harm is more likely.”

Coming up:

First Thursdays Double Kirihimete Special: Check your stash Thurs 7th Dec with substance testing at The Hempstore on K Road, 3-7pm, thanks to the NZ Drug Foundation (find a testing clinic here) and Thurs 21st December with SANG Band live and free Terp & Co tastings!

 

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 and hundreds of previous Marijuana Media episodes at 95bFM.com (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!

 

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