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Stuff.co.nz have produced this handy article examining where the NZ political parties stand on cannabis law reform.

Where do political parties stand on cannabis law reform?

Political parties don’t always make it easy to work out where they stand on cannabis law.

Medicinal cannabis regulation and recreational use should be considered separately, but they’re often talked about in the same breath. Some parties have an official line, others don’t.

The parties with pro-reform attitudes are Labour, UnitedFuture, the Greens, ACT, the Maori Party, NZ First and – not in Parliament but vocal on this issue – The Opportunities Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

Here’s a rundown:

ACT

David Seymour has said he would legalise cannabis but, in his view, public opinion was not in support of a full scale repeal of the law. The party doesn’t have an official policy but has called for informed debate, indicating a pro-reform stance.

Under it’s law and order policy, ACT wants a reduction in the prison population – which includes many offenders imprisoned for cannabis – and Seymour has said the debate needs to consider the social cost of any law reform.

AOTEAROA LEGALISE CANNABIS PARTY

A single-issue party advocating for full legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis for “recreational, spiritual, medicinal and industrial purposes”.

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ – Prime Minister Bill English has consistently opposed relaxing drug laws.

The party has stood in every general election since it formed in 1996, but has never gained enough votes for representation. Former leader Abe Gray resigned his office in June and joined The Opportunities Party, calling on members to do the same.

CONSERVATIVE

Leader Leighton Baker recently said calls to legalise cannabis were based on “alternative facts“.

MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ – Labour leader Andrew Little supports moves to lift restrictions on medicinal cannabis.

The official policy advocates a zero-tolerance approach to illegal substances, introducing harsher penalties, increasing the legal drinking age to 20 and a user-pays approach for anyone who needs hospital treatment while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In a recent post, Baker said there were more health risks from cannabis than benefits.

“This is a harmful drug and we need to keep reiterating that, not trying to promote it as some sort of harmless health remedy that is our right to partake of.”

FAIRFAX NZ – The Greens are one of the few parties with a defined policy on cannabis.

GREEN PARTY

The Greens are one of the few parties with a defined policy, which supports the legalisation of medicinal cannabis and restricted personal use.

The policy would:
* Introduce a legal age for personal use
* Use evidence-based policies from overseas to determine the best model for a legal market
* Remove penalties for anyone with a terminal or chronic illness to grow and use cannabis with support from a medical professional.

WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ – Leader Winston Peters at a NZ First regional campaign launch.

LABOUR

Leader Andrew Little supports moves to lift restrictions on medicinal cannabis and has said Labour would be quick to legislate.

In terms of recreational use, Little has said he doesn’t think decriminalisation would work and the party has no plans to go down that track if elected.

MAARTEN HOLL/ FAIRFAX NZ – Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox.

He has repeatedly raised concerns about the effects of cannabis on young people and developing brains, and wants to see more research on decriminalisation.

MANA PARTY

The party’s policy foregrounds health, supporting access to medicinal cannabis, a ban on tobacco and synthetic cannabis, and a reduction in the availability of alcohol.

Under a non-discriminatory, quality health care section, the party says its policy would “Support the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes when made available under prescription from a health professional.”

MAORI PARTY

The party has softened its stance in the last few months. Co-leader Marama Fox has been an opponent of drug law reform in the past, but in May she said it was time for a conversation about decriminalisation.

CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ – Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party supports decriminalisation of cannabis.

Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell criticised The Opportunities Party policy on decriminalisation as “dangling a cannabis carrot” in front of voters, but said the party was open to a wider discussion about relaxing the criminal justice regime.

NATIONAL

The ruling party doesn’t have any specific pro-reform plans except tweaks to the medicinal cannabis regime, and has consistently opposed calls to relax the law around recreational drug use.

Former prime minister John Key rejected the idea of a cannabis referendum and Prime Minister Bill English said he doesn’t want legalisation or any kind of trade-based cannabis industry. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is not in favour of decriminalisation.

Officially, the Government drugs policy adheres to a harm reduction, health-centred, and crime disruption model.

The Government recently removed restrictions around the provision of medicinal cannabis, allowing doctors to prescribe a product containing cannabidiol (CBD).

REUTERS – A cannabis plant for sale at a medical dispensary in Seattle, Washington, where it’s legal to buy the drug.

Medicinal cannabis would be treated the same as other medicines, said Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne (who is, of course, the leader of UnitedFuture – not a National MP). Smokable marijuana would not be permitted for medical use because it has not gone through clinical testing.

NZ FIRST

Winston Peters was the only political leader who backed calls for a cannabis referendum.

DAVID WHITE/FAIRFAX NZ – United Future leader and associate health minister Peter Dunne.

The justice policy hints at a pro-reform approach, calling for “real and enduring solutions to offending” and “attitudes which encourage rather than attack the abuse of drugs and alcohol”, but does not specifically reference cannabis.

 

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY

Gareth Morgan’s TOP calls for a fully-fledged Portugal-style decriminalisation approach.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalised personal use of recreational drugs, focusing on health and social costs over criminal justice and punitive remedies.

Opponents slammed the TOP policy as a cynical move to attract votes, but Morgan said he expected the reaction from career politicians “more worried about their jobs than they are about improving people’s lives.”

The “real deal” policy allows personal use with restrictions and aims to reduce harm by treating cannabis as a health issue, with help for heavy users with addiction and mental health issues.

The party says decriminalisation would free up $180 million in police resources and generate around $150m in revenue.

Their policy proposes:

* Licensing supply and manufacturing for “small scale regional supply” and capping the potency
* Tax based on potency levels and a minimum price set
* Regulate sales through licensing trusts, charities, or central government
* Revenue used for education, school programmes, and addiction treatment
* Allow personal home cultivation of two plants, set the legal age at 20 and ensure education campaigns discourage use until 25.

UNITEDFUTURE

Leader Peter Dunne describes the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act as “creaking” and was instrumental in the tweaks to the existing policy around medicinal cannabis.

The party policy proposes a Portugal-style health-focused approach to possession, while retaining penalties for sale, supply and cultivation.

Class C drugs – cannabis leaf and the plant (oil, hash and “preparations” are Class B) – would be re-classified under the Psychoactive Substances Act in a move to create a regulated market for drugs that are proved safe.

Stuff

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