New Zealand cannabis users were gutted yesterday by news that the cannabis referendum had failed. New Zealand’s reputation as a place for intelligent, compassionate decision-making was shattered by the result, which revealed the presence of a virulent strain of religious bigotry. Despite the outcome, there are at least ten good reasons why the Sixth Labour Government should legalise cannabis anyway.
The first reason is that the referendum result showed that the sentiments of the New Zealand people are moving rapidly in favour of cannabis law reform.
It was not long ago that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders opposed cannabis law reform. When I began campaigning for it in 2007, I often got spoken to like I was the enemy of society. If 46.1% of voters support it now, this means that the trend is moving rapidly in favour of reform, as it is elsewhere in the world. Legalising cannabis now would simply recognise this trend.
The second reason is that the true will of the New Zealand people was confounded by Jacinda Ardern’s cowardice.
National Party Leader Judith Collins was forthright with her position against cannabis law reform. Ardern, who was perhaps worried about losing support from brown religious voters, didn’t state her affirmative position on the referendum until afterwards. If Ardern had not been so gutless, and had stated her position like Collins did, that may have been worth 4-5% (given Ardern’s current level of popularity).
The third reason is that a majority of Labour’s constituents voted in favour of the bill.
As Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand, most of Labour’s voters are young people and Maoris. This is also true of supporters of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. Although the final statistics are not in yet, it’s already clear that the young and Maori voters who gave Labour their majority also voted in favour of cannabis law reform. Legalising cannabis would accord with Labour’s duty to do right by their supporters.
The fourth reason is that a majority of actual Kiwis voted in favour of the bill.
For whatever reason, you don’t have to be an actual Kiwi to vote in a New Zealand election. Being little more than a fishing village of cheap whores, we’re happy to let permanent residents vote. The problem here is that these newcomers don’t understand New Zealand culture or values. So a majority of them voted in favour of more prohibition.
As with the above point, precise statistics are not available until the final results are in. But McGlashan has predicted, from the strong correlation between voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017 and being born in New Zealand (0.73), that an absolute majority of New Zealand-born voters will have voted in favour of cannabis law reform.
The fifth reason is that most No voters are old, and will die soon, and it isn’t fair for them to have so much power over a world they won’t even be living in.
Many of the people who voted are 65 years old or over. Understanding New Zealand found a correlation of -0.43 between voting for the ALCP in 2017 and being aged 65+. People this old are incapable of changing their minds to accommodate new information. They will simply reject any new knowledge on the grounds that, if it was true, they would already know it.
As such, their votes should be discounted. If such a discounting is made, and the votes of the people who will have to live with the consequences weighed more heavily, the balance shifts in favour of cannabis law reform.
The sixth reason is that the National Party has already set the precedent, with the asset sales referendum, that it can do what it likes despite the will of the people.
The Asset Sales referendum of 2013 saw John Key’s Fifth National Government soundly defeated, with 67% against. Key sold our assets anyway, on the basis that National’s General Election win in 2014 gave them a mandate to do so. If winning an election gives a party a mandate to override 67% of the people, then the Sixth Labour Government definitely have a mandate to override 53% of the people.
The seventh reason is that a considerable proportion of No voters were dissatisfied with the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill itself, and not with the idea of legal cannabis.
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill had a number of major flaws. Most obviously, there was no good reason to restrict cannabis to 15% THC, nor to a miserable two plants per person (which makes cloning from your own mother plant impossible). Some people who wanted legal cannabis did not support the bill on account of these flaws. Some other cannabis supporters didn’t want to pay taxes on cannabis, fearing that this would make their current supply more expensive.
Others just thought the Legalisation and Control Bill was poorly written. So there are many groups of people who are all cannabis law reform supporters but were not supporters of the Legalisation and Control Bill. Therefore, their No votes cannot be taken as votes in favour of cannabis prohibition.
The eighth reason is that a large number of voters were misled by a well-funded campaign of lies.
Democratic referendums assume that the population is correctly informed about the issue under discussion. This assumes that both sides of it are somewhat honest. In the case of the New Zealand referendum, the likes of Bob McCoskrie and Aaron Ironside lied without shame about every aspect of legalisation, claiming falsely that experiences with cannabis legalisation overseas had led to more teen use, more violent crime and more injuries from traffic crashes.
It was never a level playing ground. The campaign of lies from Say Nope to Dope needed to be countered by an official response that made reference to the facts, and it never was. Accounting for the effect of this bombardment of falsehoods would be to credit the Yes side with a large number of extra votes.
The ninth reason is that the No side had a great deal of foreign funding.
The American Church of Scientology funded the No campaign to the tune of at least six figures. Another American outfit known as Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which helped to defeat cannabis law reform measures in several American states, also worked closely with the Say Nope to Dope campaign. The Family First charity mysteriously doubled its income in a few short years, and this resulted in letterbox drops and large advertisements in major newspapers and television.
Many New Zealanders are appalled by the fact that cannabis prohibitionists in this country would team up with foreigners against their own people. In any case, most New Zealanders agree that we shouldn’t allow foreigners to influence New Zealand elections. Cannabis should be made legal to defy the foreigners who sought to interfere in our election.
The tenth, and major reason, is that cannabis prohibition has still failed. Just because 53% of the population support it, doesn’t mean that it has succeeded.
All of the arguments for cannabis law reform, such as the ones laid out in The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, are still valid. Prohibition has still failed to keep vulnerable people safe, it still funnels millions of dollars to gangs, it still causes people to hate the Police and it’s still an affront to human decency.
The ten reasons outlined in this essay are enough that the Sixth Labour Government ought to legalise cannabis despite the referendum result. The arguments that saw support for prohibition fall from 80% to 53% over the past decade are still valid, and those who support prohibition will soon be a minority.
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.