Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins backs decriminalisation

By November 1, 2020 Recent News

Cannabis referendum: Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins of Say Nope to Dope camp backs decriminalisation
NZ Herald 30 October 2020
One of the campaigners against legalising cannabis says the referendum result shows a “clear mandate” for decriminalising marijuana.

Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins, who represents the Manukau ward, backed the Say Nope to Dope campaign, as he was not “completely convinced” there were enough safeguards to protect young people.

However, speaking at the campaign’s press conference, Collins said he was fully behind decriminalisation.

“I think the [legalisation] question was a bit extreme and ended up dividing New Zealanders.

“But I think this result shows there is a very clear mandate for decriminalisation. It is a good starting point, and what I think the referendum should have been more focused on.”

His comments come as Justice Minister Andrew Little said it would be “irresponsible” to reform drug laws, including legalising or decriminalising cannabis, after the preliminary referendum result.

That result showed 53.1 per cent voting “no” on legalising cannabis for personal recreational use, and 46.1 per cent voted “yes”.

The final result won’t be announced until next Friday, November 6, which will include 480,000-odd special votes.

But Little said about 70 per cent of those would have to have ticked “yes” to flip the result.

“The probability of that is so low as to be virtually non-existent.”

Collins, who is a member of the Labour Party, said that referendum result did give them that mandate, and he urged them to show “courage”, which they lacked sending the question to referendum in the first place.

“We have a broken system. Our young people are filling our prisons. A lot of people in my community who were in support thought this would fix that, but I’m not convinced.

“I think decriminalisation would be a good starting point.”

Other members of the Say Nope to Dope campaign, which was founded by Family First’s Bob McCoskrie, would not rule out supporting decriminalisation either.

McCoskrie and fellow campaigner Aaron Ironside said it was a “topic for another time”.

Although they would wait until the special votes had been counted, McCoskrie said they were “pretty stoked” with the preliminary result.

Ironside said young people might not applaud them, but they’d used their “freedom of choice” to stop them from being included in a “social experiment”.

“We can leave that to the Americans and Canadians,” he said.

He commended Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for not stating her position before the referendum, and “leaving it to the people”.

Ironside said he believed New Zealanders ultimately backed them as they couldn’t imagine more cannabis being available would lead to less harm.

Their polling had shown a 10 per cent split in the vote in favour of no, so the result was slightly closer but still close to what they expected, he said.

After recent law changes around medicinal marijuana and the Misuse of Drugs Act, fewer people were being charged and more were being referred for health support, he said.

“Given enough time we might see those laws do what they are designed to do, but what was proposed was an overreach.”

Asked if he was okay for marijuana to continue funding gangs and not be taxed, he said he disagreed with the statement.

They agreed with better resourcing police to deal with that aspect, and increasing education campaigns, he said.

“We don’t want to create more addicts to help addicts.”

Asked about their use of cannabis gummy bears in their marketing – products that had been ruled out in the legislation – and claims of misinformation through the campaign, McCoskrie said they were simply “raising the spectre” of what had happened overseas and could happen here.

He also said “not a cent” of their funding had come from overseas, and they were conducting an independent audit, which they’d make public.

Calls for decriminalisation as legal cannabis looks unlikely
Radio NZ News 31 October 2020

Cannabis referendum: Greens not giving up on ‘yes’ vote yet
NewsHub 31 October 2020
Justice Minister Andrew Little told Checkpoint he felt that decriminalisation was a half-way stop that creates more problems than it solves.

“The Netherlands chief of police said they’ve had to turn a blind eye to the criminal elements supplying the coffee shops where people can use legally. It creates a huge complex mess that we wouldn’t want to replicate,” he said.

Little said the electorate has spoken, and the Government has no other proposals for drug law reform this term. He said voters have made a clear-cut decision, and the Government will respect that. Little said he believed legalising cannabis was a step too far for people.