Yesterday, a journalist decided to ambush Metiria Turei with a question about the Greens' cannabis policy ... during what was supposed to be a big unveiling of their education policy. Now, quite apart from noting that the correct response should have been "What's that got to do with encouraging low decile educational achievement?", I thought it would be interesting to peer behind the smokescreen and examine just what, if anything, cannabis decriminalization Greens style actually means in practice for the Land of the Long White Cloud.
First up, let's take a look at their website.
The Greens' "Drug Law Reform" policy-set divides the actions they intend to take to alter how our society interacts with a particular Schedule C substance (and, assumedly, preparations that fall into Schedule B) from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 into three flavours: "Immediate Steps", "Medium Term Steps", and "Long Term Steps".
Let's start with the "Immediate" ones. This is what we may assume Turei is talking about when she claims to be dedicated to "pushing" the issue should her party occupy the Treasury Benches with Labour come later this year, as it's what they've told us they want to do first. Her own previous Private Member's Bill on the subject is quite clearly geared up to facilitate the accomplishment of their "enable doctors to prescribe cannabis products for severely ill patients" policy point; which would suggest, given that it's the same proposer and the same policy being advanced, that Turei's bill represents a good guide to how The Greens will attempt to approach fairly swift medical decriminalization with a minimum of legal fuss.
Now Turei's bill is, obviously, a medicinal decriminalization proposal, which means it differs rather substantially and substantively in content and intent from Nandor Tanczoc's previous efforts in this area. (which, incidentally, was sufficiently concerned with societal acceptance to have originally included penalties if you were sparking up within 100m of a school or kindergarten)
Turei's bill sets out a new regulatory regime for cannabis, under which persons suffering from a range of disorders, impairments and illnesses enumerated in Schedule 1 of her bill are able to apply with support from their medical practitioner or specialist to the Medical Health Officer for a Medicinal Cannabis Identification Card under s9B of the draft legislation.
So far, so conventional. And nothing to seriously object to if you're somebody who believes medicinal cannabis is a worthwhile medicine.
However, the Devil is in the Distribution.
The first thing that jumps out at you when you read Turei's bill is the lack of dispensaries. Given the emphasis upon central approval for medicinal cannabis use via the Medical Health Officer, you'd assume that there would also be a substantial degree of central control over the sale and distribution of marijuana to persons needing it for medicinal use.
Not so, it would appear. Instead, Turei's bill puts the provision of medicines squarely in the hands of the end-user.
In her vision, the Card Holder gets given seeds and is expected to either be able to grow the plant themselves (s9A), or to be able to find somebody who's got the requisite horticultural (herbicultural?) skills to do so on their behalf as a Designated Agent (s9C).
So no Colorado-style or Californian-style Dispensaries under this scheme, and you'd better have a green thumb to go with your green lung and your green card. Or a mate with the requisite equip and expertise. I also can't wait to see how Card Holders will go about renumerating their Designated Agents for growing on their behalf.
However, the most amusing bit of Turei's bill is where the cannabis seedlings and other material *actually comes from in the first place* so as to supply the Card Holders and their Designated Agents.
Are you ready?
s11(1) of Turei's bill sets out that the New Zealand Police are the organ of state charged with dispensing cannabis material to Card Holders. s11(2) of said bill tells you where the Police get the material to hand out ... "supplied from stock seized during the course of law enforcement activities".
Effectively, this means Turei's entire medical decriminalization scheme relies upon an on-going crackdown on private and personal cannabis use to actually continue to be able to provide medicinal users with supply ... a situation that may be less charitably described as "robbing (and possibly incarcerting) Peter to supply Paul for his glaucoma".
A moment's consideration will reveal why the average stoner or hobbyist-cultivator will not find Turei's legislative solution all that compelling as a result.
Oh, also ... if you're looking to set up a Cafe, then the Greens are probably not your best destination for a Party Vote at the moment. Their enthusiasm for the 2003 Smokefree Environments Act amendment, which rendered all indoor workplaces 100% smokefree assumedly means that the same regulations which prohibit recreational smoking of cigarettes in cafes and bars ... will probably prevent smoking anything else inside a Cafe or Canna-Bar.
And, if you're a spliff smoker, the Greens' policy of stamping out tobacco use in Aotearoa by 2025 may also be highly relevant. Perhaps you should start "growing your own". It's certainly what they're advocating for the medicinal smokers :P
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