Paula Bennett’s Cannabis Stance Emblematic Of National’s Failure

Yesterday’s Reid Research poll suggested complete and utter failure for the National Party in this September’s election. Most media commentators rushed to congratulate Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party, and suggested that their steady hand during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the reason for the good polling. The alternative explanation, as this essay will explore, is that National are shit.

The poll suggested that Labour is currently favoured to win 56% of the vote at the next general election. This would only be a fraction lower than what the African National Congress won in last year’s general election in South Africa, a country often criticised for being a one-party state. It’s a triumphant poll for Labour supporters; their opposition lies scattered and disorganised.

Predictably, most National supporters reacted by bleating about how Reid Research was in Ardern’s back pocket and how everything will be different once the economic effects of the lockdowns are more widely understood. But it won’t be. The fact is that the country has fundamentally lost confidence in the current National leadership.

This magazine reminded everyone last year, in response to increased complaining about the human rights abuses committed by the Sixth Labour Government, that Labour were only in power because National were shit. The Fifth National Government had unmistakably demonstrated its indifference to the suffering of New Zealand’s working class and younger generations, and, subsequently, Winston Peters went with Labour after the 2017 General Election.

Nothing has changed on National’s part.

Deputy Leader Paula Bennett has announced that she’ll be voting to keep putting cannabis users in cages this September. She isn’t bothered that cannabis prohibition costs the taxpayer $400,000,000 a year to enforce, or that it causes great suffering to many of her fellow citizens for no justifiable reason. She wants to charge on with cannabis prohibition as if we’ve learned nothing at all from the past 45 years of failure.

This position is a microcosm of National’s failings.

We tried the politics of cruelty for nine years – the term of the Fifth National Government. We saw John Key and then Bill English sit on their arses as medicinal cannabis was legalised across the world, leaving desperate Kiwis to suffer needlessly. They wasted some $3,600,000,000 on enforcing cannabis prohibition during their term, with nothing to show for it at the end.

During those nine years, we saw the suicide rate climb as the mental health system was pared down to the bare bones. Banking and finance interests grew fat and wealthy, while working New Zealanders were driven first into debt and then to the wall. The National Party rejected all pleas for relief with the same contemptuous indifference that the previous National Government had shown.

By 2017, New Zealanders decided that they’d had enough cruelty. National lost so much support that they lost their grip on power, and Winston Peters dealt the killing blow. It seems that National didn’t learn much from this, however. They have continued to campaign for a kick in the guts to all the usual victims.

Bennett’s position on cannabis shows that National still don’t give a fuck at all. They don’t give a fuck about science, or evidence, or what’s happening with cannabis law reform overseas. They’re just drifting along, in their own little bubble, as if it were still the 1990s.

Things were different in the 1990s. The Fourth National Government passed a Budget in 1991 that left the children of poor families to go hungry, and were rewarded. Kiwis didn’t care about hungry kids then, so we voted National back into power – twice. In the 1990s, we didn’t give a fuck either. But we do now (at least generally speaking).

New Zealand, and the world, have moved on from beggar thy neighbour politics, but the current National leadership has been slow to see it.

Today’s National Party are so out of touch with the average New Zealander that they might as well have a Deputy Leader who wants to put homosexuals in cages. Bennett’s position on cannabis is ludicrous in the light of existing evidence. The electorate inevitably punishes someone holding antiquated positions, and cannabis prohibition is an antiquated method of dealing with cannabis misuse.

To be in favour of cannabis prohibition today is to deny reality. A person is insane if they think that, by using the criminal justice system to put cannabis users in cages, the Government decreases the sum total of human suffering. Kiwi voters can sense this, and so they have overwhelmingly chosen to support the opposition.

The National Party needs to move away from the politics of hate that have characterised it in recent decades, and accept that policies like cannabis prohibition belong in history’s garbage can. This might necessitate a clearout of their current leadership. Nikki Kaye has previously demonstrated a 21st Century approach to cannabis law reform, and the electorate might reward this good sense over what Bridges and Bennett are offering.

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Vince McLeod is the author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, the comprehensive collection of arguments for ending cannabis prohibition.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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They Want To Cause Suffering To People They Hate

The latest cannabis referendum poll suggests that 54% of New Zealanders will vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum on September 19. According to the poll, there are significant differences in levels of support for the referendum between supporters of the various parties. Some people have found this hard to explain. For their benefit, this essay elucidates.

Paul Manning, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics, asked the question “What do they want?” in response to the news that many elderly and conservative voters plan to vote against the cannabis referendum. He points out that these people understand that cannabis is widely available and that cannabis prohibition is not working. So why do they support it?

The reason why most elderly and conservative voters intend to vote ‘No’ is because they hate the sort of person who uses cannabis and they want to cause them suffering. This might sound uncharitable, or even cynical, but it has to be understood that most elderly and conservative Kiwis are twisted creatures of hate.

For their entire lives, this generation of New Zealanders has been exposed to propaganda inducing them to hate cannabis users. Ever since the 1930s, when Reefer Madness came out, popular culture has normalised the idea that cannabis users are depraved, anti-social maniacs. This propaganda has had the intended effect on the elderly of the West, who mostly swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

This anti-cannabis propaganda stems from two main sources, both of which hate cannabis for its ability to induce free thinking.

The first is the Church, who have always hated freethinkers because freethinkers question religious dogma. For centuries, the Church has relied on the acquiescence of its subjects in order to brainwash them. Freethinkers were the enemy because they threatened this acquiescence, and thereby Church control – this is why the Church has always persecuted them, going back to the murder of Hypatia and beyond.

The second is the Government, which wants a compliant population of submissive worker drones. Their ideal citizen is one with an IQ of 90, who goes to work everyday and produces widgets or basic services without ever complaining. As far as the Government is concerned, they are running a tax farm, and their chief concern is to milk the livestock as profitably as possible. The last thing that want is someone rocking the boat with free thought.

The elderly have internalised almost a century of this propaganda. As such, they genuinely believe that cannabis users are dangerous radicals who threaten to destroy the foundations of society itself, and who therefore deserve all the abuse they get. This hatred, in their minds, justifies cannabis prohibition.

In America, it was admitted that the purpose of the War on Drugs was to smash people they hated. John Ehrlichman, aide to Richard Nixon during the latter’s presidency, admitted that the purpose of the War on Drugs was to target anti-war hippies and black people. In an interview with Harper Magazine, Ehrlichman is quoted as saying:

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Although it hasn’t been admitted, the same calculus applies in New Zealand.

There are almost no blacks in New Zealand, but elderly and conservative New Zealanders hate Maoris just as much as their American counterparts hate blacks. Elderly and conservative New Zealanders also hate hippies, who they associate with Communism and with the free and honest sex lives they wish they had had.

It’s well known that Maoris are strong supporters of cannabis law reform – the correlation between being Maori and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017 was a whopping 0.91. The reason for this immensely strong support is because Maoris are adversely affected by cannabis prohibition to a much greater degree than other New Zealanders.

However, this disproportionate harm is considered a good thing by many elderly and conservative New Zealanders. They see Maoris as the enemy anyway – a thieving, bludging, ungrateful, violent enemy – so if cannabis prohibition harms them, that’s a good thing.

These elderly and conservative New Zealanders also hate other cannabis using demographics, such as young people, artists, hippies and freethinkers. Elderly and conservative New Zealanders do plenty of drugs, but their drugs are sedatives, alcohol and opiates. Cannabis prohibition doesn’t target them.

This hate is why arguments appealing to the suffering caused by cannabis prohibition often have no effect. Most elderly or conservative voters think “Cannabis users are suffering? Good! Smash them, crush them, destroy them. Ruin their lives with a criminal conviction. Imprison them so their kids can’t see them. They are the enemy and should be obliterated!”

The psychiatric damage caused to cannabis users by arresting and imprisoning them is considered a bonus by these people. Appealing to the cruelty of it makes as much sense, to elderly and conservative voters, as appealing to the cruelty of shooting the enemy soldiers on the other side of the battlefield. Of course it’s cruel, that’s the point.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to the presence of this malicious streak in New Zealand’s elderly and conservative voters. Hatred is a deep emotion – usually too deep to be influenced by reason. The sight of intelligent young people like Chloe Swarbrick speaking eloquently merely aggravates the elderly and conservative, and further entrenches their prejudice.

At the end of the day, young Kiwis and Maoris can take solace in the fact that the old bastards who hate them are dying off. No amount of hate can stop the aging process, and the old bigots will lose their ability to influence the law once Time puts them in the ground. Absent measures such as forcing the elderly to surrender their voting rights in exchange for a pension, that will have to do.

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Vince McLeod is the author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, the comprehensive collection of arguments for ending cannabis prohibition.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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Cannabis Is Considered An Essential Medicine in America – But Kiwis Still Can’t Get It

With New Zealand entering “level 4” of the new Coronavirus national response system, commercial activity is being scaled back to essential services. This has led to some confusion as to what counts as an essential service. An unpalatable truth facing Kiwis is that, by the standards of several places in America, we are having an essential service denied to us.

The COVID-19 alert level is currently set to 3, out of a maximum of 4. This is similar to the American DEFCON system and refers to the current alarm level. A level 3 means that all non-essential services have been forced to close by Government decree, part of a schedule of restrictions laid out on the Government’s own COVID-19 response website.

What counts as an essential service is also listed on that website. The list covers all the skeleton services required to keep a no-frills society running: healthcare operations, food production and sales, security services, postal and courier services etc. The logic is that, despite the coronavirus risk, it would cause even more suffering if these services were stopped, so they have to be kept open.

Most countries worldwide are now moving into some kind of lockdown with movement or trading restrictions as a result of the pandemic. What’s interesting to note is that although all countries agree on the importance of, for example, social distancing, they don’t all agree on what constitutes an essential service.

Access to medicinal cannabis is not considered essential in New Zealand – the New Zealand Government considers growing medicinal cannabis to be criminal conduct. If you have one of the dozens of ailments that can be helped by cannabis, you can go fuck yourself. You’re not allowed to use it, and if you grow it yourself, you go in a cage.

In several places in America, however, medicinal cannabis is considered essential.

In Los Angeles, county officials declared medicinal cannabis dispensaries to be ‘essential services’ on the grounds that they are healthcare operations like any pharmacy. These officials understand that it is grossly immoral to deny suffering people a medicine that would help them – so immoral that, even in a time of national crisis, cannabis dispensaries need to be kept open.

It’s similar in San Francisco, where cannabis dispensaries are kept open on the grounds that cannabis is a medicine like any other, and that people’s need to access medicine during this time is the same as during any other time. The Dutch also allowed their cannabis cafes to remain open throughout the lockdown, reasoning that closing them would create additional health risks as well as empowering the criminal underworld.

Although the issue is not yet taken seriously by the majority of New Zealanders, accessing medicinal cannabis is a life or death issue for a number of people here. Studies have shown that introducing a medicinal cannabis law decreases the overall suicide rate, and by as much as 11% for men aged between 20 and 29. If one adds to this the lives saved by the application of cannabis to physical medicine, it shows that withholding it from people is causing a significant number of deaths.

It’s incredible that, in some places, the medicinal uses of cannabis are so widely accepted as to be understood by all, yet in New Zealand it’s still impossible to access it. This ongoing denial is a completely unnecessary form of sadism, and one that is entirely unjustifiable given the current state of scientific knowledge about the cannabis plant and its uses.

It’s most galling for those who currently sit in prison for an act deemed to be an “essential service” in other places. New Zealand must seem like a medieval shithole to those who are in cages right now for growing medicinal flowers, when that same act is considered an essential service in more enlightened parts of the world.

Cannabis prohibition is an act of cruelty that only continues because those with the power to change it hate cannabis users, and are indifferent to their suffering. The morally correct thing to do is to recognise that cannabis is a medicine, that people have a legitimate right to use it, and to legalise it straight away.

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Vince McLeod is the author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, the comprehensive collection of arguments for ending cannabis prohibition.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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New Zealand Should Legalise Cannabis For The Coronavirus Lockdown

It seems inevitable now that the country will soon end up in lockdown on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will cause a great deal of stress not only to our society and to our economy, but also to the minds of individual Kiwis. This essay discusses a simple, easy way that the Government could help the nation avoid much of the suffering coming our way: legalise cannabis.

When the lockdown happens, people are going to be trapped inside their houses for a long time. This sudden, forced, close proximity is going to sharply increase the stress levels of a great number of them. Kiwis are an outdoors people – for us community is found on the sports fields, the tramping trails and the beaches, not inside churches or auditoriums. Being stuck inside will be highly unnatural for us.

The Playstation will help for a while – a few days at most – but that will wear thin quickly. The lockdown will lead to sharply elevated levels of boredom and stress – emotions which, if felt for a prolonged period of time, lead to chaos and destruction.

New Zealand already has a serious problem with domestic violence, mostly due to the fact that alcohol is promoted while more peaceful alternatives are suppressed. In our culture, where most lack the self-confidence to speak eloquently, bashing someone is considered an acceptable way to discipline someone misbehaving.

We can predict, sadly, that the enforced proximity created by the lockdowns will result in a sharp rise in domestic violence. Having to live on top of each other for weeks will lead to more nagging and fighting, especially when some turn to alcohol to beat the tedium. As tempers fray, fists will fly. Because children will be at home from school, they will be exposed to it all. In some cases, this will cause long-term trauma.

The Government could pre-empt a great deal of this suffering today, if they had the wit and will to legalise cannabis.

One of the foremost benefits of cannabis is that it makes boredom easier to deal with. As Doug Stanhope said: “Boredom is a disease. Drugs cure it.” Cannabis can make all kinds of dull things exciting, and can make ordinary things seem interesting. Cannabis enthusiasts have found that weed adds to the appreciation of life in much the same way that salt adds to the appreciation of a meal.

If cannabis were to be made legal today, people could make plans to use it during the lockdown. Although it will not be possible to institute retail sales on such short notice, people could take measures to acquire it from those who already have it, who could themselves be temporarily authorised to sell it while a proper recreational system was being set up (although not to people under 18).

Such a move would ease a great deal of the extraordinary stresses to which Kiwis will be subjected in coming months.

The Government is going to have to deal with the prospect of civil unrest over the next few months. There has already been looting in London, if limited, as a result of the increased tensions. Although the nation is pulling in behind the Government now, this is only because the state of alarm is keeping people in line. As the lockdown wears on, people’s dissatisfaction will change their sentiments.

Legalising cannabis would make this much easier. It would provide relief to the great number of New Zealanders who will be suffering heightened stress and anxiety from the lockdown and from its economic consequences. It would provide relaxation to those disturbed by the disruption to normal life. Not least of all, it would allow for different patterns of thinking in these times of panic and despair.

Jacinda Ardern has already proven that the country is willing to accept extraordinary measures in this time of crisis. We have already accepted a shutdown of the national borders, despite the fact that this measure condemns to bankruptcy a proportion of our tourism, transport and hospitality operators. The general mood is akin to a siege mindset. It’s the perfect time to take bold measures.

A majority of New Zealanders have already accepted that legal cannabis is inevitable. The only holdouts are clinging to prohibition out of stubbornness, spite or malice. The COVID-19 lockdown offers the perfect opportunity to bulldoze through these last recalcitrants and to repeal cannabis prohibition.

Over and above all this, repealing cannabis prohibition would free up some $400,000,000 of Government spending and tens of thousands of Police man hours that is currently wasted every year on enforcing cannabis prohibition. Both of those things will be in desperate short supply over the coming months – time to acknowledge that they’re not well spent persecuting weed smokers.

If the Sixth Labour Government thought intelligently about it, they would understand that the COVID-19 epidemic had temporarily slapped the nation out of its usual slumber, and they would use this opportunity to do things that had previously been made impossible by obstinacy and cowardice. The Cannabis Control Bill that is scheduled to be put to a referendum this September could simply be passed into law by majority vote.

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Vince McLeod is the author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, the comprehensive collection of arguments for ending cannabis prohibition.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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If you would like to support our work in other ways, please consider subscribing to our SubscribeStar fund. Even better, buy any one of our books!