The general election date and cannabis referendum date is 19th September 2020.
We are gearing up for the campaign
The Case for Yes
Report by the Helen Clark Foundation setting out the case for a Yes vote in the 2020 cannabis referendum.
From the introduction:
In 2020, New Zealanders will have the chance to make a historic decision about whether or not to change the way we regulate personal cannabis use. If we miss this opportunity, the chance may pass for a generation. Cannabis use is a reality in New Zealand, and the results of our current policy approach damage our health, worsen social equity, and drive crime.
This paper argues that the status quo is unacceptable, and seeks to ask how we can do better? Our answer is that we should move to a health-based approach with robust regulation, effective public health education, and adequate service provision.Our key criteria for any policy are: what will best improve health and equity while reducing harm? Evidence suggests that up to eighty per cent of New Zealanders will use cannabis at least once before turning 25, making cannabis the most commonly used illicit drug in New Zealand. Yet cannabis remains an illegal drug, and prosecutions for possession and use alone continue for those unlucky enough to get caught.
The current approach to cannabis inflicts excessive punishment on those users who face prosecution who, in turn, are disproportionately Māori. In this paper, we argue that New Zealanders of all political persuasions should follow the evidence of what works and what doesn’t. The evidence points to a vote in support of cannabis legalisation and regulation in 2020.
Our view is that the New Zealand Government should adopt an approach to cannabis use which sees it as a health and social issue and not a criminal one. Regulation should seek to prevent the emergence of major corporate interests in the market which would have a profit motive to undermine public health objectives.In this respect New Zealand can learn from its experience with regulating tobacco and alcohol. Overall our analysis argues that the disproportionately adverse effects of current policies on cannabis use justify putting in place legalisation and effective regulation.
A Bill to vote YES on…
The Cannabis Leglaisation and Control Bill has been released. This is the Bill that you will be voting on.
At the general election, on your ballot paper, will be a question:
Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?
You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:
- Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
- No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
The Bill is summarised in this infographic:
More information can be found here: https://www.referendums.govt.nz/cannabis/summary.html
Our Supporters Say “Make It Legal!”
The second report of the Safe and Effective Justice Committee states “That the Government strengthen regulation of alcohol, legalise and regulate personal use of cannabis, and consider that for all drugs, treating personal drug use as a health issue, with more funding towards prevention, education and treatment.”
See the full report here:
Drug Driving Discussion Document
The Government initiated a discussion document on drugged driving. The deadline for submissions was Friday 28 June 2019. You can find the discussion document detail here.
The #makeitlegal submission is below:
REPRESENTATION TO THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT ON DRUGGED DRIVING
28 June 2019
WHO ARE WE?
The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is committed to supporting drug law reform research, campaigns and education for the benefit of individuals, whanau and communities. In particular we:
- undertake and disseminate educational material and research on drug law reform policy and legislation and its impact on individuals, whanau and communities; and
- support individuals, whanau, communities and organisations in activities that promote drug law reform, particularly the legalisaton of cannabis and
- support just and rational drug laws that reduce harm and illicit activity; and maximises benefits to individuals, whanau and communities; and
- provide other support and assistance consistent with our purpose.
The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is currently campaigning under #makeitlegal, to raise support for cannabis law reform in the 2020 referendum on the legalisation of cannabis.
OUR POSITION IN SUMMARY
We commend the Government on its enhanced commitment to road safety, including attempting to grapple with the difficult question of how to regulate drugged driving.
We urge the Government to consider this question within a broader context of driver impairment, regardless of the cause of that impairment.
We consider that impairment testing as it is currently practised is outdated, subjective and inadequate. We recommend that resources go into collaboration with other jurisdictions to develop simple device-based reaction testing as a low-cost screening device for impairment.
Following an impairment screening device, further testing (including substance testing where appropriate) and interventions can be conducted based on the nature and source of the impairment.
OUR CONTACT DETAILS
Secretary – Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust
Phone: 021 890 629
We wish to make an oral submission on this matter if we can do so by phone or video conference.
OUR ANSWERS TO THE DISCUSSION DOCUMENT QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Do you think that roadside drug screening is a good option for deterring drug driving and detecting drug drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document?
We agree that some kind of low cost and quick screening device for impairment is desirable, to act as a deterrent to impaired driving.
We do not support roadside drug screening. If the objective is to improve road safety, impairment needs to be the focus, regardless of the source of that impairment. The discussion document points out a number of substances that can cause impairment but which are unlikely to be tested for – synthetics, prescription drugs etc. There is also impairment that is not caused by a substance – lack of sleep, emotional stress etc.
We consider it entirely feasible to develop a simple app, loaded on a mobile device of some kind, that can test, for example, reaction time on a simple task. Failure to achieve a predetermined level can give rise to further testing to determine the cause of the impairment. This allows a quantifiable, objective test of impairment. It would mean a simple, low cost and rapid screening test that could be conducted in a similar way to roadside breath testing for alcohol.
Further interventions, following a failure on the initial screening test, could include:
- A more comprehensive (device-based) impairment test to determine the level of impairment. This could be linked to an individual’s base score over time, as the technology and levels of data capture improves.
- Blood testing for specified substances considered to present the highest levels of risk to other drivers.
- A discussion to see if other causes of impairment can be ascertained (eg.tiredness) and an appropriate response identified (eg prohibited to drive for a period)
QUESTION 2: Do you support oral fluid screening for roadside drug testing of drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document that could be considered?
QUESTION 3: Is it reasonable to delay drivers by 3 to 5 minutes to administer a roadside drug screening test, in order to detect drug drivers and remove them from the road?
No. Such a delay would quickly lead to intolerable backlogs. A screening test needs to be able to be completed in around a minute. Our proposal in response to Question 1 would allow that.
QUESTION 4: Is a presence-based, zero-tolerance approach to drug driving, where presence of a drug is sufficient for an offence, appropriate for New Zealand?
No. Such an approach would punish people for behaviour that does not put others at risk. The issue is impairment and driver safety. The “presence” of a drug i not the same as being impaired. Many
prescription drugs in low doses do not impair, but do in high doses. We already have a tolerated level of alcohol
QUESTION 5: Should there be legal limits for some drugs?
Yes. Any limits should be based on robust science that gives a reliable level for impairment, and reliable testing.
QUESTION 6: If roadside drug screening was introduced, which of the three approaches discussed above do you prefer?
- Testing under the current ‘good cause to suspect’ criterion
- Targeted testing following an incident or a driving offence
- Random roadside drug screening, along the lines of the current breath alcohol testing model.
Are there other approaches that should be considered?
If a roadside screening test for impairment was developed, along the lines outlined in our answer to Question 1, we would support random testing. Otherwise, given the low correlation in substance testing between detection and impairment, we do not support drug screening.
QUESTION 7: If random drug screening was introduced, do you think it is a reasonable and proportionate response to the harm of drug driving? Are there circumstances in which it would be more or less reasonable?
Random testing using a method which is reasonably quick and which reliably tests that people are impaired, such as is the case with alcohol testing or with direct impairment testing as we have outlined in response to Question1, is proportionate to the harm of impaired driving. Otherwise we are not convinced it is.
QUESTION 8: What criteria should be used to determine if a drug is included, or excluded, from drug screening?
If a secondary screening for substances is used, following an impairment screening as we have outlined in our answer to Question 1, we think that it should be based on robust evidence about which drugs are most likely to lead to accidents and which ones can be reliably tested for levels of impairment. We make the point that this may need to be based on some kind of matrix. A drug which causes moderate impairment but also leads to more risk taking may be a higher risk than a drug which causes higher impairment but leads to more cautious driving.
QUESTION 9: What regulatory process should be used to specify the drugs that are identified for screening?
An Order in Council is the appropriate regulatory process.
QUESTION 10: Should illicit and prescription drugs be treated differently?
No. If prescription drugs state that people should not drive under their influence, and there is robust evidence that they impair driving, then they should be treated the same as illegal drugs.
QUESTION 11: Should there be a medical defence for drivers who have taken prescription drugs in accordance with a prescription from a medical professional?
No. If a prescription drug causes driver impairment, we would expect that using it “in accordance with a prescription” means not driving.
QUESTION 12: If oral fluid testing was introduced in New Zealand, do you think there should be a requirement for a second drug screening test following a failed first test? Do you prefer another option for screening drivers?
Please see our response to Question1.
QUESTION 13: Do you think that drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test? If not, what evidence should be required to establish an offence of drug driving?
Yes. Drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test
QUESTION 14: Do you think an infringement offence (an instant fine and demerit points) or a criminal penalty (mandatory licence qualification, fines and possible imprisonment) is appropriate for the offence of drug driving?
We consider that an infringement notice for a first offence is appropriate, although higher levels of impairment as demonstrated on an impairment test, and also subsequent offences, might warrant criminal penalties.
QUESTION 15: Is there any other penalty or action in response to the offence of drug driving that you think should be considered?
Understanding the causes of offending and addressing those is usually preferable to simple punishment. We would encourage the Government to look creatively at this.
QUESTION 16: Do you think it is reasonable to penalise drivers who have used drugs, but may not be impaired?
No. The issue we need to address is road incidents caused by impaired driving. Punishing non-impaired drivers does nothing to address that.
QUESTION 17: Do you have anything else you would like to say about drug driving?
Cannabis law reform will have an impact on workplace drug testing and on the enforcement of traffic regulations. Concerns around this have been voiced by employers, unions and the NZ Police. It should be noted, however, that substance testing for impairment is an ineffective health and safety procedure. It rarely tests the number one drug of abuse in the workplace (alcohol) and does not test impairment from cannabis use but rather the presence of long-lived cannabis metabolites.
Cannabis law reform will require that we address these difficult issues, as the simple presence of cannabis metabolites will no longer be grounds for punitive action.
The issue of impairment is not just about cannabis use. Impairment can arise from sleep deprivation, relationship problems, pharmaceutical products and a range of other conditions that are difficult to individually test for.
For this reason:
- We recommend that driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited as per existing regulations on impairment.
- We also recommend that the Government investigate impairment testing (as opposed to substance testing) as a more accurate measure of actual impairment in the workplace.
We also wish to highlight this comment, made publicly by researcher Dr Geoff Noller, PhD, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago; in relation to cannabis impairment while driving.
“This is a complicated question, with interpretations of data often ‘muddied’ by unclear data or analyses that conflate historic use of cannabis with actual impairment. Having noted this, a recent detailed US analysis by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), following the legalisation of cannabis in a number of US states suggests that when data are correctly analysed, there appears to be either no elevated crash risk associated with cannabis only, or even a reduced risk of crashes.”
Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty
Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty
The new position paper by the Global Commission on Drug Policy shows how the deprivation of liberty for non-violent drug crimes is a wrong and ineffective response, notably because it does not take into account the social and psychological root causes of drug consumption, nor does it consider the economic and social marginalization of low-level actors in the trade. Furthermore, people who are incarcerated are vulnerable, exposed to risks, particularly health risks, for which they are not well-equipped and do not receive adequate care.
In this report, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy analyze the last thirty years of over incarceration in closed settings, from prisons to migrant administrative detention and from mandatory treatment to private rehabilitation centers. The paper highlights the responsibility of the State towards people who are incarcerated, and demonstrates how their health and well-being are at risk.
Download the paper here
Responsible Legal Regulation
What does responsible legal regulation mean?
Under a model with legal regulation, cannabis related activities (use, possession, cultivation, sale etc) are no longer criminal activities, but regulated through administrative laws, as is the case for other products such as alcohol and tobacco.
While offences still occur, these are not criminal offences, but related to failing to adhere to regulations. For example – a person may grow cannabis at home for personal use legally, but if they sell it, they may be fined for unlicensed sale. Or if a licensed supplier sells to a child, they may be prosecuted and fined for underage selling, and have their license revoked.
Legal regulation itself covers a range of scenarios from strict regulation (such as with the regulation of hazardous substances or medicines containing opiates) to responsible regulation (as proposed for cannabis) through to lax regulation (such as with alcohol) and then on to unrestricted access (such as with ice creams and soft drinks). This can be seen in the graph above, taken from Regulation: The responsible Control of Drugs by the Global Commissions on Drug Policy, showing the range of models from decriminalisation through to unrestricted access, and the level of harm each model is likely to result in.
Responsible legal regulation is what is proposed for cannabis.
The People of New Zealand Are Owed a Proper Choice
This article first appeared on Stuff.co.nz.
OPINION: The tide is coming in for cannabis law reform. Last week Parliament significantly improved access to medical cannabis. A couple of days later the Government said it was directing the police, by law, not to prosecute personal possession charges where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial, or where there is no public interest in a prosecution.
These are huge steps forward. But both will be overshadowed by the referendum on general use that was the subject of a Government announcement on Tuesday. Andrew Little, who has been impressive as Minister of Justice, is leading the work on the referendum. He looks to be a good pairs of hands for the task. So what did he say?
The referendum will be held at the next general election in 2020. Any time frame has pros and cons but I think there are some real benefits to this. Having it at the election will help ensure a good turnout for both and, in principle, any increase in participation is a good thing for democracy. Some people may end up voting in the election for the first time because they want a say in the referendum, and that will make it more likely that they will vote in future.
A potential disadvantage is that it risks cannabis becoming an election issue. No doubt the National Party sees an opportunity to grandstand as it did during the medical cannabis debate. Getting real information out there – evidence-based and grounded in reality – will be critical to allowing people a real say. Then again, maybe National won’t. Polls since 2000 have shown that most New Zealanders support a law change. National’s approach when the referendum was first announced last year was a measured one. Simon Bridges indicated that he didn’t agree with change but National would support the outcome. If that was his first instinct, it was a sound one. If National wants to win back mainstream New Zealand, it may find that overblown ‘reefer madness’ rhetoric is not the way to do that.
Binding referenda are unusual in this country. Having an assurance that their votes mean something, and that whatever Government we have after the election will be bound by the result, will make a real difference to people’s attitudes. A binding referendum is more than just a promise to do what the people say. Usually it works by having a bill in Parliament with a trigger clause. The bill automatically comes into effect if the referendum passes. Having the referendum in late 2020 allows time for such a bill to be developed.It was disappointing to learn that the wording of the referendum question is still undecided. What it looks like will be critical.
We already know that a majority of New Zealanders support allowing adults to possess cannabis for personal use. We also know that simply allowing personal use will not solve the many problems caused by cannabis prohibition. If we want to make it harder for kids to get cannabis, we need to have licensed outlets with age restrictions rather than tinny houses. If we want to reduce the influence of gangs, we need to have licensed outlets with legitimate money flows rather than tinny houses. If we want to break the connection between cannabis and other drugs, we need to have licensed outlets that do not sell other drugs, rather than tinny houses.
Putting up a referendum question on a fully legal market, as they have now in a number of US States and Canada, is risky. That is why the #MakeItLegal campaign has been pushing for two questions in the referendum. The questions would be based on a modular bill with Division A to do with personal possession, growing and use and Division B to do with sales. The questions would simply be:
1. Do you support adults being allowed to grow and possess cannabis for personal use? (as per Division A of the bill)
2. Do you support adults being able to buy cannabis and cannabis products from licensed premises? (as per Division B of the bill)
That is the only real way to test not just whether New Zealanders want change, but what kind of change they want. After so much delay, the people of New Zealand are owed a proper choice.
Former Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos is a permaculturalist and social ecologist. He is a councillor at Whakatāne District Council and works as an educator and community organiser. He has been involved in cannabis law reform since 1990 and is a member of the #MakeItLegal coalition.