The Government released news this week about the exact form of the cannabis referendum question at next year’s General Election. The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, currently in draft form, will serve as the basis for next year’s referendum question. Long-time cannabis law reform campaigner Vince McLeod, author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, gives his thoughts on the proposal.
The proposed law is weak, but it’s a realistic compromise with the forces of evil.
Most importantly, it makes the possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis, a small homegrow and licensed retail cannabis sales all legal. As far as the cannabis-using community is concerned, this achieves most of the long-stated goals of cannabis legalisation. It’s broadly in line with what other states and territories in North America have introduced.
Section 18 of the Cannabis Control Bill will allow up to 14 grams of cannabis to be possessed in a public place, and for cannabis to be smoked at home. People are allowed to possess more than this if they are transporting it from one person’s home to another. There appears to be no limit on how much cannabis one is allowed to possess at home.
This will mean that it will no longer matter if a Police officer smells cannabis on you in public or while during a visit to your house. Evidence of cannabis will no longer, by itself, be a sufficient cause for the Police to attack you. Even if the case of smoking cannabis in public, which will still be illegal, the punishment is only a $200 infringement fee.
Section 15 of the Bill will allow for two plants to be grown at home per person, and up to four plants to be grown per household.
Two plants is not a lot. However, if you grew four plants in a small grow tent under a 600W light you could get ten or twelve ounces per grow. Assuming that you’re able to get hold of clones, this would mean ten or twelve ounces every eight to ten weeks. In other words, a household could meet its demands for recreational cannabis easily enough by growing it themselves.
Moreover, there is no proposed restriction on the size of the two plants, as has been the case in some North American jurisdictions. This suggests that people will be allowed to put down a couple of honking sativas in an outdoors greenhouse and get them both up to ten feet tall. Such an arrangement would make it legal to grow a year’s worth of cannabis in one season, sparing the need for the environmentally-unfriendly grow tents.
Section 19 of the Bill allows for recreational cannabis sales. Purchases will be limited to 14 grams per day, but this is at least two weeks’ worth by any reasonable measure. Aside from this, it appears the proposed model will be fairly similar to the cannabis cafe model that has existed in the Netherlands since the 1970s.
In other words, it appears that the proposed model is intended to allow for recreational cannabis sales in cafes in a similar fashion to how alcohol is already sold in pubs. Section 49 of the Bill makes reference to “consumption licences” which will allow certain premises to allow people to consume cannabis in public. Such premises will not be allowed to also sell alcohol, and will therefore follow closely to the Daktory model that Dakta Green has already established in New Zealand.
Despite these major wins, the Bill has a number of flaws from the perspective of the average member of the cannabis-using community.
Nowhere in the Bill has provision been made for running a mother plant that clones can be taken from. If one household can only have four plants, it makes having a mother plant that one can take clones off difficult. Against this criticism, however, is that it appears the Bill will allow for retail sale of feminised seeds.
It’s also a mistake to set the legal limit at 20. For one thing, it implies that cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol, which is entirely false. For another, it means two years where young Kiwis will be legally allowed to drink booze but not smoke weed, which will mean two years of exposure to the more destructive of the two drugs. Legal cannabis has been shown to lower rates of alcohol use overseas, and the sooner an alternative to alcohol was available the better.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Bill doesn’t address our right to use cannabis for spiritual purposes. Absolutely zero acknowledgement is made of the fact that cannabis is a spiritual sacrament, but this is not unexpected if one considers that New Zealand has been ruled by completely godless people since the turn of the century, and that for their sort spirituality is mental illness.
Also predictably, there is no provision for an official Government apology for conducting a war against them without their consent. The War on Drugs has been the worst human rights violation to occur in the West since World War II. The Government’s role in this war has involved decades of lying to the public about the effects of cannabis and putting people who defy them in cages. Their conduct has been obscene, and an apology should be part of legalisation – but it won’t be.
Perhaps worst of all, the Government is still committed to minimising cannabis use from the standpoint of cannabis use being inherently harmful. It’s possible that they have calculated that legalising cannabis would make it possible to strangle cannabis culture through ever-increasing taxes and red tape, as they have almost successfully done for tobacco. More likely, however, is that they have shifted thinking so that cannabis is now (rightly) grouped with alcohol and tobacco and not heroin and methamphetamine.
There are many possible criticisms of the Bill, but ultimately it is definitely worth supporting. All of the legitimate criticisms relate to aspects of cannabis law that could best be fine-tuned after the referendum has been passed.
Realistically, what the proposed Cannabis Leglisation And Control Bill means is an end to the fear. It would be taking away that dark, nauseating feeling that comes with being marked as a criminal. People smoking or growing cannabis at home will no longer have to fear saying the wrong thing or inviting the wrong person to their house, and the net result will be a reduction in the suffering of the New Zealand people.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 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 2017 is also available.
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