Hooton channels Andrew Little, he wants us to “cut the crap”

Former Council of Trade Unions boss Helen Kelly has catalysed a renewed push for cannabis liberalisation. A non-smoker all her life, Ms Kelly is dying of lung cancer at the shockingly young age of 51.

As her illness has progressed, Ms Kelly has found cannabis has offered her highly effective pain relief. To highlight that it remains illegal, even for medicinal purposes, Ms Kelly also used her formidable media skills to engineer something of a conflict with Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne over the matter. Mr Dunne, well known for his friendliness towards tobacco companies but strong hostility towards cannabis growers, inevitably came off second best.

Ms Kelly appears to have won the public debate. Polls now indicate over 80% of New Zealanders support decriminalising or legalising medicinal marijuana. Some two-thirds support decriminalisation or legalisation of growing and possessing small amounts of cannabis for recreational use. The prime minister says he’s not keen.

Which is remarkable, knowing how poll-driven he is normally.  People are starting to assume Key has made commitments in this area he can’t back out of. 

Something seems a bit dodgy about all this. Are we really to believe that middle-aged, life-long users of cannabis are solely motivated to help the likes of Ms Kelly, reduce societal harm and even to see a drop in the number of users? And how extraordinary that all the new “evidence” they cite publicly just happens to support exactly what they thought when slam-dancing to The Clash as teenagers in the 1970s. Science doesn’t usually work so neatly. […]
The drug lobbyists and cannabis community are undoubtedly right that the current situation is sub-optimal. Cannabis and even harder drugs are theoretically illegal but – as the prime minister argues – they have largely been decriminalised in practice with the authorities usually turning a blind eye, at least to the well-dressed. The lobbyists are also right that we really should invest more in programmes to deter teenagers from early experimentation and to provide help to those who seek it.

But, to use a dreadful pun, could the cannabis lobby please get off the grass. It is as absurd to think decriminalisation or legalisation will turn everyone into good, responsible cannabis users as prime minister Jenny Shipley arguing in 1999 that lowering the drinking age would turn us all into sophisticated southern Europeans sipping a glass of wine with dinner. In truth, there cannot be any “evidence” about what would happen if we liberalise cannabis laws in New Zealand because it has never happened in this time, place or social context. Nor has there ever been a control group anywhere else.

We can make bets though. Anyone with an understanding of New Zealand culture would surely wager that cannabis reform would be followed by an increase in usage, especially among the young, an increase in harm and would require much greater investment in health services to minimise that harm. Out of that, it is possible to see usage and harm could be reduced down the track, as has been achieved with tobacco.

But instead of 50-something Clash fans arguing there is now some incontrovertible science that happens to coincide with what they whined when they were teenagers, could they do everyone the courtesy of making the only argument that has purchase: that Ms Kelly and other adults should be able to smoke cannabis or snort cocaine or whatever else because it is their body and their life. It’s at least an argument with integrity and also happens to be true. In the meantime, could Ms Kelly’s friends please keep supplying her with cannabis and could the cops please leave them all alone.

Not sure the pot heads are going to be listened to, but they certainly don’t add anything positive to the medical and/or decriminalisation debates.

Bottom line is that New Zealand is ready for it.  John Key won’t go there.

 

– Matthew Hooton, NBR

  • XCIA

    “They have largely been decriminalised in practice with the authorities usually turning a blind eye, at least to the well-dressed.” Au contraire. I recall instructions by senior sergeants to constables prior to policing duties at open air concerts in the 70’s – “Unless they have rolled Winston Churchill size joints and they are blowing smoke in your face, leave them alone”. That included the hoi polloi, not just the “well dressed”.

  • Kevin

    “We can make bets though. Anyone with an understanding of New Zealand culture would surely wager that cannabis reform would be followed by an increase in usage, especially among the young, an increase in harm and would require much greater investment in health services to minimise that harm.”

    During prohibition in the US there was a 20% drop in alcohol use. Not an exact comparison, sure, but perhaps indicative – i.e. if we legalise cannabis we could expect perhaps a 20% increase in use.

    “could they do everyone the courtesy of making the only argument that has purchase: that Ms Kelly and other adults should be able to smoke cannabis or snort cocaine or whatever else because it is their body and their life.”

    I’ve always argued that this is not a cannabis issue but an issue about choice. As an adult I should be able to choose what ever I put in my body, so long as I do so responsibly. And if I act irresponsibly then, and only then, should the government and the police step in.

  • John

    The problem with the blind eye approach is if you happen to be one of the unfortunate souls who do get caught. It could distroy many peoples professions all for what our most senior law maker seems to dismiss as trivial. Why should a senior law maker allow such sloppyness as to keep laws, that he appears to be saying are redundant an are on our statutes

  • STAG

    New Zealand is Not ready for it. MH is absolutely correct, change the law and the morons win. Drugged out drivers, crime and increased health and mental service costs. Yes some will act responsible, but they will be the same ones that Already Are. They’ll just not have be as circumspect about theit use.

    Fine, it is certainly time Dumb Dumb Dunn was shown the door and medical use and treatment legalised. But nothing else. We as a culture and country will just mess it up.

    • John

      One possibility is to licence drug users and have them forfeit their drivers licence at the same time.

  • waikatosinger

    New Zealand was ready for a new flag too and look at what happened there. If Key proposed it Labour would oppose it. Guaranteed.

    • John

      At least with the flag, we had a referendum which allowed the majority view to be heard. I wonder what John Key would think about spending 26 million on a referendum proposing the legalising of cannabis.

      • waikatosinger

        It wouldn’t cost much if done during the general election.

  • Keyser Soze

    The argument for the decriminalisation of Cannabis is simple – Prohibition does not work. Period.

  • Luke Lucas

    If marijuana was only to be used for bonefide “medicinal” purposes I would be in favour of legalising it. However who has been to Venice beach in the USA? There are numerous “doctors” there who advertise that they are able to “prescribe” or certify that you qualify for medical gunga. You can imagine the class of people that are attracted to the area and it clearly shows that the law is being rorted.

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