Stuff co.nz 16 August 2016
The majority of Kiwis are calling for cannabis to be decriminalised but there’s almost no appetite for a referendum from political leaders.
Prime Minister John Key says a referendum on decriminalising cannabis isn’t on the Government agenda and if Labour were to win in 2017, it wouldn’t be on theirs either.
Key said while it’s interesting to have a poll on decriminalising cannabis – ultimately it would lead to cannabis stores on the street corner.
“You show me the communities who want to put up their hand and say I want a tinny house at the end of my street.”
The only party supporting putting the question to the public is NZ First – who has a long standing position to use referendums to decide controversial issues.
Labour leader Andrew Little says he personally doesn’t think cannabis decriminalisation would work as a policy and the party has no plans to carry one out if in Government.
This won’t be music to the Green Party’s ears who don’t think a referendum is needed but instead want a Government bill on legalising cannabis, which would provide an opportunity for public submissions.
Greens health spokesman Kevin Hague said a recent poll that revealed 64 per cent of Kiwis thought personal possession of a small amount of cannabis should be either decriminalised or legal, showed it was time to have a proper debate on the issue.
“I’m looking forward to the day the Green Party is part of a Government and we’ll be advocating for that.”
However, Little said legalisation isn’t an option for Labour and a referendum on decriminalisation isn’t on the table either.
“We’ve been clear about our priorities, and actually I don’t think the Greens will even disagree that the types of priorities we’re talking about are their priorities too. We can have a talk about it but what it will come down to are what the priorities are now.”
Government support partners, UnitedFuture and ACT don’t favour a referendum on the issue.
If there was a citizen-initiated referendum, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said he wouldn’t oppose it but “it’s not a priority”.
ACT leader David Seymour said referendums are a “cop out” and he can’t recall any problem in the country ever being solved through the public process.
“What the polls show is while there’s a lot of sympathy for medicinal marijuana, there’s actually not a lot of sympathy for anything else in terms of reform,” he said.
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says her party supports broadening access to medicinal cannabis and would like to see a “wider debate” on decriminalisation.
She wouldn’t be drawn on a referendum for decriminalisation until she discussed it with the rest of the party.
“Personally I’m not sure a referendum would be that helpful. It’s pretty polarising one way or the other and I think the discussion is what’s needed rather than putting everyone into a corner.”
Peters said holding referendums is a much better process than giving MPs, “many who are disconnected from how the public feels,” the power to decide.
READ MORE: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/83173728/NZ-First-are-on-their-own-calling-for-a-referendum-on-decriminalising-cannabis