Friday, September 5, 2014

We're on the Greenest Greens: Call us Vegetarian

Yesterday, The Internet Party and MANA issued a joint press statement setting out their respective stances on cannabis.

Despite Hone Harawira's previous and well-known opposition to law reform in this area, alteration of policy in this area was always a pretty predictable move from InternetMANA. It's a natural fit with their target demographic, a cause celebre for protest voters and many within the electorate, and perhaps most importantly, a chance for InternetMANA to once again stake out slightly more radical ground on policy than some of their chief rivals - the Green Party.

Yet it's important to look at what's actually been said by each of the respective parties when it comes to cannabis law reform. It's all too easy to wind up caught up in the smoke and mirrors (ha ...although the mirrors get used for something else) and subject to the misrepresentational vagaries of the media's interpretation and spin of parties' stances otherwise.

This appears to already be the case for InternetMANA, wherein the actual press release issued by Harawira & Harre quite clearly sets out that the Internet Party is in favour of "immediate decriminalization" and moves toward "legalization and proper regulation"; while MANA is not yet in favour of decriminalization (Harawira states this is "still being worked through" by members) and instead quite sensibly places its own stronger emphasis on "support and treatment".

Naturally, one half of InternetMANA stating it believes in decriminalization, while the other half doesn't (yet) has been read by some commentators as full support for full decriminalization and eventual regulation plus market by both parties and thus the whole alliance, as you can see here.

I don't doubt that that's where many if not most MANA supporters' hearts eventually lie; but I'm not entirely sure if it's a service to InternetMANA to remove the nuances from their position and try and make out that they're officially balls-out (buddying up?) for decriminalization. One of the strengths of the IMP alliance is its ability, in a federalized manner, to advocate policy positions that appeal simultaneously to different parts of the electorate, and while Harawira's emphasis upon the continued illegality of cannabis creating an impediment toward dependents seeking assistance and treatment with their health issue is obviously intended to be read in a complimentary way with Harre's statement about the desirability of decriminalization and eventual legalization and regulation ... I also feel that there is a market on the left for Harawira's own personal distaste for cannabis legalization - and that this aids rather than impinges upon InternetMANA's credibility with mainstream New Zealanders.

So here's a brief review of what the various parties think about cannabis:

National, predictably, remains trenchantly opposed to legalization or decriminalization. According to them, they can't see any benefits which outweigh the harms in law reform. I'm sure the presence of a number of former tobacco industry lobbyists on its List and in its post-2014 Caucus had no influence whatsoever on this. File this under "we believe the law is working, and won't be changing it any time soon".

Labour, as a fellow Big Two party and thus consequent slave to the passions of the mythical "center voter", is also cagey. I have had quite some respect for Iain Lees-Galloway on this issue, however, as he's managed to stake out a measured personal position that appears to have slowly encouraged the beginning of the reform of Labour's policy all up. At present, they're not keen on legalization, but are open to a "conversation" in this area. I doubt they'll go much further than this for some years yet, but at least they're not completely ruling out reform out of hand.

The Green Party, meanwhile, puts out some seriously confusing messages about cannabis reform. We all know that many of its members and MPs are strongly supportive of rational and pragmatic drug policy. We also all know that it's a bit of an electoral impediment to have the slightly more well-healed middle-class voters the Greens are now chasing thinking you're all a bunch of dreadlock'd, dope-smoking radicals too stoned to even contemplate an armed uprising to seize the means of production.

So the Greens attempt to strike a middle course of being somewhat all things to all people on this issue. Their official policy, as available on their website (in either summary or full-length), doesn't make mention of the words "decriminalization" or "legalization" once. Instead, they've gone for the subtle approach of signalling their intent for a "review" of laws in order to produce a "rational" drug policy; while also moving closer to de facto decriminalization (without actually advocating such explicitly) by suggesting that police be instructed to prioritize low-level cannabis offending differently in the course of their duties. They've also suggested that they'll "push" for law reform in post-election coalition negotiations with Labour; although I'm not entirely sure how seriously they intend to do so.

Other points to be considered include the fact taht Green Party cannabis policy at present precludes the set-up and operation of Amsterdam-style Cafes (due to their commitment to maintaining and extending the Smokefree Environments Act 1991 so that it applies not just to the tobacco portion of your spliff); and the seriously bizarre prescriptions in Metiria Turei's last attempted Private Member's Bill on the subject ... which, I kid you not, seriously proposed setting up a medicinal decriminalization program featuring the New Zealand Police confiscating cannabis material off "recreational" users, then distributing it to Green Card (sorry .. Medicinal Cannabis Identification Card according to s9B of said bill) holding citizens so they'll be able to grow their own. Or get somebody to grow on their behalf.

It was clearly going to be an interesting system, and for what it's worth ... while I give Metiria a pass (to the left) for enthusiasm ... I rate her bill as being less progressive and less of an actual solution than Nandor Tanczos's previous effort in this area.

Now my own beloved New Zealand First ... is advocating for a #Reeferendum on the subject, with Winston himself seeing "probative value" in medicinal marijuana. There will be some in the audience who insist that a referendum is a cop-out mechanism (and will assumedly start making Equality of Marriage noises) ... but I would point out that first, a referendum is *exactly* how legalization was achieved in both of Colorado and Washington State; and second, that given the manifest divergence of opinion between New Zealanders and their elected representatives on this issue ... I can well imagine a scenario in which New Zealanders would vote en-masse for the legalization measures that their Parliamentarians would never do likewise for :P

Humorously, this effectively means that the only Party above 5% whom you can vote for on September 20th with a drug law reform policy that's proven to have worked overseas (and which consequently can result in legalization if that's something the people of New Zealand feel they can live with) ... is New Zealand First.

However, as with Harawira, we believe that the most important part of any conversation surrounding the state's role in regulating drugs is that of supporting those who develop issues with drugs through treatment and recovery. One of my proudest accomplishments with NZF thus far has been getting the main party to adopt NZ First Youth's recommendation that we seek to *reverse* the funding cuts National has meted out to addiction and substance abuse services. Needless to say, whomever decided to cut state support for substance addiction and abuse treatment at the same time that synthetic cannabinoids were being legalized, was a class A jackarse.

Of the sub-5 Percenters, the two parties everybody's watching when it comes to cannabis reform are United Future and ACT.

United Future's stance on drugs has been somewhat confusing in recent times, with Dunne appearing to zig-zag more than my rolling papers on what he believes about a whole range of substances ranging from whether synthetic cannabinoids should be legal through to pondering how exactly to justify keeping the evidently much less harmful *real* cannabinoids illicit.

What will he think tomorrow? Let's ask his son, the legal highs industry lobbyist and find out :P

ACT, meanwhile, is branding itself as a classical liberaltarian party which is so incredibly philosophically honest with its supporters, that its leader will quite happily comment to the assembled and waiting news media about how he thinks incest should be more broadly legalized ... yet the party's so incredibly paranoid about breaking its base with a divisive question like this (as happened in 2011 when Don Brash briefly came within striking distance of justifying his existence and resurrecting ACT's political fortunes by advocating decriminalization ... before John Banks declared this would be happening over his, or quite possibly the ACT Party's dead body...) that it's specifically taken cannabis law reform off their policy agenda. You won't find a single mention of cannabis anywhere on their policy site; and the closest it comes to talking about drugs or drug users is when it's blaming them for burglaries.

I shall say that again: A "classical liberal/libertarian" party lead by a philosophy lecturer *so incredibly pure* in his libertarian thought that he doesn't see the problem with advocating for legalized incest in an election year, and who was perfectly happy penning screeds in academic publications about the implicit desirability of liberalizing gun laws and other instances of "paternalizing authoritarianism" such as drug prohibition ... yet who balks at actually turning the most reasonable instance of opposition to the "paternalizing authoritarianism" of "prohibition" into actual policy because he knows that his real views scare even his own voter-base!

The Maori Party doesn't seem to have a policy on this issue, but are more interested in decriminalization rather than legalization.

Colin Craig's Conservative Party is, predictably, violently opposed to any movements in this area. I have noted with some interest that this indicates Craig's opposition to drug law reform effectively trumps the Conservative Party's commitment to Direct Democracy in this area. For persons looking for points of difference between the Cons and NZF ... the fact that NZF is open to listening to the Will of the People in this area, while the Cons aren't, is pretty dang telling.

Oh, and I think the Aotearoa Legalize Cannabis Party *may* possibly want to reform NZ's drug laws surrounding cannabis, but yeah ... these guys are Exactly What It Says On The Tin (ha).

So there you have it. Party Policy on Cannabis, all wrapped up in a tidy zip-lock bag for your easy consumption.

1 comment:

  1. How does one email you if one wanted to. One might have something your good leader might find interesting.