Peter Dunne announced today that he will be stepping down at next month’s election and will not contest his current Parliamentary seat of Ohariu. It’s apparent that the National ship is sinking and, like a rat, he’s getting off while the getting’s good. However, that doesn’t mean he should get away with the suffering he caused to innocent Kiwis while in office.
The New Zealand Crimes Act sets out the definition for culpable homicide, one form of which is the crime of manslaughter. One example of culpable homicide is “causing that person by threats or fear of violence, or by deception, to do an act which causes his or her death”.
The threat of using the criminal justice system to put a person in a cage for using medicinal cannabis definitely qualifies here. Peter Dunne has acted to uphold cannabis prohibition ever since his agreement to support the Fifth Labour Government in exchange for no progress on cannabis law reform.
This has had the effect of causing people to avoid using cannabis medicine for fear of arrest and imprisonment.
Lying about the medicinal qualities of cannabis also qualifies here. Telling the people of New Zealand that cannabis is not a medicine, when its medicinal use is saving lives in dozens of overseas jurisdictions, is a form of deception that has caused a number of deaths.
If New Zealand was a fair society, if justice existed here for every person and not just for the wealthy, Dunne would be charged with causing those deaths.
Studies have shown that in American states with legal medicinal cannabis, deaths from opioid overdoses have decreased by 25%. This is because many suffering people would rather use cannabis than the highly addictive opioid-based painkillers that frequently lead to death by overdose.
Because Dunne blocked medicinal cannabis law reform for so many years, the use of prescription opioids in New Zealand has soared. A mainstream media article from a couple of months ago, titled Serious pain coming as NZ’s prescription opioid use soars, details some statistics that point towards the looming health disaster that Peter Dunne has dumped in our laps.
There’s no doubt that if a New Zealander went into someone else’s house and took away their insulin, and then that person died, then the person who took that medicine away could be charged with manslaughter. So why can’t Peter Dunne be tried for the people who died because he kept medicinal cannabis out of their hands?
If the case of sick Kiwis dying from having an effective medicine withheld from them is not enough to press charges, the ongoing spate of deaths from people using recreational alternatives to natural cannabis might be. Peter Dunne’s action in delaying the legalisation of recreational cannabis, at the same time as opening the floodgates for a variety of mystery drugs cooked up in Chinese labs and labelled “legal highs”, has been linked with nine deaths last month alone.
The fact is that these people are only dying because their first choice of recreational drug – natural cannabis – has been denied to them, incentivising them to use alternatives. Therefore, it can be argued that Peter Dunne, insofar as he blocked cannabis law reform for so long, is responsible for these deaths.
His disastrous Psychoactive Substances Act, one of the most overreaching and totalitarian laws ever passed in New Zealand, has had the effect of making a huge range of safe cannabis alternatives illegal, delivering this massive industry directly into the hands of the black market and the criminal gangs that exploit it. Because of the total absence of quality controls in the black market, recreational drug consumers have absolutely no idea what they’re getting when they buy a cannabis alternative.
As the Minister chiefly responsible for this shambles, Peter Dunne ought to face manslaughter charges for the innocent Kiwis who have died through having cannabis denied to them.