A recent Customs report suggests that the New Zealand Government may lose up to $10,000,000 in revenue per year from a black market in tobacco as a consequence of raising taxes on both cigarettes and loose tobacco. The predictable Government reaction will be more restrictions against home growing and even more taxes, but this essay will argue that if the Government had any sense they’d drop the whole hubris-fuelled idea.
An example of how the Kiwi political class has more shit for brains than it does grey or white matter was provided by Nicky Wagner’s response to the report. She said:
“We’re monitoring it very closely, we’re intercepting [tobacco] the border, you may be aware that the Customs and Excise Act is changing in the New Year. That cuts the amount of growth for personal use from 15 kilograms down to 5kg… We’re attacking it on several different levels.”
So rather than accept that they may have made an error, or that the 40-year failure of the War on Drugs may have taught us anything, or that the failure of alcohol prohibition in America may have taught us anything, our politicians are just going to double down on pissing our taxmoney up the wall.
Tobacco prohibition, however gradually it might be brought about, is a sadistic idea dreamed up by morons.
Some might ask, given the evident physical dangers of smoking tobacco, how this can be.
The answer: tobacco is a mental health medicine. This is not generally understood by either doctors severely brainwashed into taking a physicalist perspective towards everything or by politicians who are generally either ignorant or indifferent to mental health and the people suffering from a lack of it.
It has long been noted that people who are hard done by and the majority of severely mentally ill people smoke something, almost always either tobacco or cannabis.
An article from the Journal of the American Medical Association points out that “individuals with mental illness smoke at rates approximately twice that of adults without mental disorders… and comprise more than half of nicotine-dependent smokers.”
In other words, half of the haul of increased tax revenue from the Smokefree New Zealand policy comes out of the wallets of mentally ill people who are taxed for trying to obtain relief from psychological distress.
And the higher they pump the tax up, the more the mentally ill will just have to keep paying, because people with high levels of psychological distress have no other reliable way to control that distress when it gets out of control than to have a cigarette.
Why the Smokefree New Zealand policy is so cruel can be summarised with a line from a recent article in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research: “people with high levels of psychological distress do not benefit to the same extent as others from existing tobacco control measures.”
In fact, people with high levels of psychological distress lose out immensely from the Smokefree New Zealand policy, because they have to pay more for tobacco which leaves them in increased poverty, which increases the psychological distress (and thus the demand for tobacco).
Here’s a question that the gutless chickenshits in Parliament will never have the courage to ask themselves: Is there a connection between the tobacco prices and our world record teen suicide rate?
They won’t ask themselves that question, because they lack either the integrity or the courage. The rest of us, for our part, might like to consider this question: will the attempt to ban tobacco be any less of a futile waste of resources, achieving nothing but human misery, than the attempts to ban alcohol and cannabis have been?
This column contends that it will not. The crusade against tobacco has all the hallmarks of being another futile, self-destructive suicide mission foisted on an unwilling populace by the morons in Parliament.
On the face of it, it seems self-evident that a New Zealand libertarian party would be a staunch supporter of cannabis law reform. There’s nothing less libertarian than the government putting people in cages for using a medicine they don’t approve of, and there’s nowhere in the world with a greater appetite for a repeal of cannabis prohibition.
The New Zealand ACT Party claims to be a libertarian party. They have wrapped themselves in the libertarian yellow and their website boldly states “We believe the current role of government is far too large and should be limited on a principled basis.”
Sounds good, as probably 75% of New Zealand agrees that the New Zealand Government’s decades-long war on medicinal cannabis users has been a governmental overreach and should be limited.
The ACT Party Crime and Justice page even goes as far as to state, at the top: “We’re striving for a progressive, vibrant New Zealand that encourages individual choice, responsibility and excellence.”
From all this rhetoric you’d think a repeal of cannabis prohibition would be front and centre, but it’s not even mentioned. Instead the entire Crime and Justice section is just a lengthy diatribe about how burglary is the greatest evil facing our nation and ought to be punished severely.
The inability of the ACT Party to make good on their rhetoric about compassion and freedom by supporting a repeal of New Zealand’s cannabis laws – despite their unprecedented degree of leverage on the current Government – marks that party, and David Seymour, as a pack of weaklings.
What takes the ACT Party’s behaviour from disappointing to pathetic is the fact that it has already been well established that a repeal of our cannabis laws would save the taxpayer $400,000,000 per year.
So changing our cannabis laws, and making good on all the lofty rhetoric about compassion and freedom and fulfilling New Zealand’s destiny as a forward-thinking nation, would be a simple matter of negotiating with the current National Government $400,000,000 worth of tax cuts that would be paid for with the savings from cannabis prohibition.
It isn’t clear why Seymour has yet to kick the ball into this wide open goal.
Probably because he is a coward, but it’s unlikely that a man could possibly be so craven. Imagine being so gutless, so lily-livered, so chickenshit, that a 76-year old former leader of your party was saying what needed to be said six years ago, and you still can’t find the stomach to walk the same trail blazed by this geriatric.
A more charitable explanation though, going by his wittering about the need to do work on evaluating what’s happening overseas, is that Seymour is just in the same twenty-year time warp as most of the rest of the country.
It was pointed out in a previous Dan McGlashan column that supporting the ACT Party has a very strong negative correlation with being born in New Zealand (-0.74). Has the ACT Party sold its soul to corporate globalist interests so that Seymour could be a National party puppet?
Considering that there are significant correlations between voting ACT and both having a professional occupation, or with working in financial and insurance services, it’s unlikely that ACT voters or supporters have much in common with cannabis users at all, much less using cannabis themselves.
If those are the circles Seymour moves in, perhaps this is why Seymour has failed to observe the immense appetite for a change to our ridiculous laws.
So maybe he needs to climb down out of the ivory tower and get a clue.
Coming out in support of cannabis law reform would lend credence to the idea that ACT might really be a libertarian party, instead of what most Kiwis suspect them to be – paid whores of big corporate interests.
The question is whether Seymour has the courage to stand up to a Catholic prohibitionist National Party leader, or whether he’d rather scurry away and prepare himself for the aftermath of the likely National loss later this year.
The most sure thing of all is that if ACT does not make an appeal to libertarian New Zealanders by updating their cannabis policy, they have little hope of winning more than one seat in this year’s election.
Nelson does exceptionally well as a tourist town over the summer. We get thousands for the Abel Tasman alone and the Black Caps played here twice this season. It means big money for Sun City – but it won’t continue if we continue to get a reputation for mindless violence.
Retail group Uniquely Nelson is especially concerned by what they see as a spike in antisocial activity, in particular “drunkenness, violence, abuse, theft, rubbish and broken glass.” But as anyone who has lived in Nelson for any length of time knows, violence, abuse, theft rubbish and even broken glass are natural consequences of the first problem named – drunkenness.
Neither can we glibly blame everything on ‘North Islanders’ as if Nelsonians are not subject to the same loss of inhibition as everyone else on the planet who drinks booze. Drunk people in Nelson do the same things in Nelson that drunk people in any low-wage area get up to.
The problem with the drinking culture of Nelson is this – most of the intelligent people who have lived here for long enough have secured cannabis hookups and use that instead. Cannabis has driven out alcohol among the sort of consumer that is most sensitive to being turned away by dickheads, and this has left the drinking to the lowest common denominator.
Anyone new to Nelson looking for a good time will quickly encounter this lowest common denominator, and the results are usually as described in the examples given in the opening paragraph.
The sad thing is, there is plenty of opportunity for people to come here and have a good time. Being the oldest of Kiwis, we Nelsonians naturally represent what is the best of us, in particular a sunny nature, a social attitude and a genuine joy of life.
But we’d rather smoke weed at home than come into town to get our heads kicked in.
So the solution is obvious.
We ought to demolish the dive bars of Bridge Street and replace them with a handful of cannabis cafes, so that Nelsonians and our many visitors can relax in public without fear of being attacked by some drunken animal.
As it is, if I’m driving East on Bridge Street late on a weekend night and I see some young backpackers heading the other way for a night on the town, I feel sorry for them, knowing that they will not get to see the best of my city or of its people.
Cannabis cafes on Bridge Street would provide the revitalisation that Sun City needs. It would bring the young people back out of their homes and life back into the streets of the CBD. It would also create a festive atmosphere in the city centre to replace the fighting, vomiting and vandalism.
Not least, the local retailers of Nelson stand to make a packet from the idea. The wider Nelson region is already, along with Coromandel, the most popular destination in New Zealand for underground cannabis tourism owing to our widespread local embrace of the plant medicine. International visitors know that they can come to this region for some of the world’s best natural cannabis.
If Nelson could get it together to take advantage of the impending repeal of cannabis prohibition we could position ourselves first in the queue for the hordes of young tourists that would flock here to escape from the drunken shitheadery that plagues most other Kiwi towns and cities.
If we did it right, many of those tourists would be other Kiwis. These people should leave Nelson with a sense of being impressed by our forward-thinking, gregarious and positive attitude, not with relief at getting out before they were glassed by some pisshead.
“If you were to come and ask me for a tinnie of marijuana and I give you a tinnie of lawn clippings, you’ve still committed an offence, even though you haven’t got drugs in your possession.” Sound reasonable? Perfectly reasonable according to Senior Sergeant Rupert Friend of the Hamilton Police.
In the odd case of Betty Tamihana, who tried to purchase some cannabis on Facebook to treat an anxiety disorder, she found that if you try to buy some medicine and get ripped off, the New Zealand Police will not help you if that medicine was cannabis. In fact, they will attack you.
Such an attitude is especially galling for the tens of thousands of Kiwis who use medicinal cannabis. Imagine being told that not only is your medicine illegal but if you so much as get ripped off by someone falsely claiming to sell you it then you are a criminal.
It would be more honest just to make it a criminal offence to suffer from a medical condition that could be treated by cannabis. Perhaps specially equipped Police units could raid the houses of cancer sufferers and if it was found that cannabis would be an effective medicine for the terminal pain then the sufferer could be charged with the crime of ‘Having a Reason To Want To Try To Purchase Cannabis.’
If your light is on at night because you can’t sleep, perhaps that could be taken as sufficient evidence that you might end up wanting to buy some cannabis to cure the insomnia, and so the Police should have the right to pre-emptively break into your house and put you in a cage (for your own safety of course).
Joking aside, that shows how ridiculous cannabis prohibition is. Should we accept that, in New Zealand, after all the time and effort we’ve put into building a decent justice system, a Police officer might sell the sufferer of a mental illness some grass clippings in the guise of an anxiety medicine just to arrest them under a law that was supposedly enacted to protect the public?
None of this is to blame the Police. The Police are men of iron, and the key to understanding them is to understand dogs, who are also of iron.
The thing about dogs is that they have absolutely no concept of right or wrong – they just obey dominant males in their group. Anyone who feeds them, or pays them in the case of Police officers, is their total and complete master, and they will rip to pieces anyone who fails to pay this master due respect.
The real bad guys of this story are, as usual, the Paedophiles of Wellington, who are the ones responsible for maintaining the law against cannabis freedom that is mindlessly enforced by the Blue Dogs.
The refusal of the New Zealand political class to accede to the public will to repeal cannabis prohibition has driven a wedge between the Police and the public, as it has induced the Police to spend forty years attacking the citizenry in the War on Drugs, instead of acting as peace officers, which is their warrant.
This has meant that there are now several large demographic groups – the under 40s, Maori, the mentally infirm – who distrust the Police to the point of seeing them as no less oppressive than an enemy army.
Of course, the biggest irony of this story is that the only person to behave in a rational manner was the drug user who called the Police to report a fraud. The Police officer did not act rationally, because to have a total lack of sympathy for the sufferer of a mental condition is the kind of hatred that ends up getting reciprocated, even if indirectly.
There is a faulty premise in the national consciousness – the premise that the pro-cannabis lobby has the responsibility to make the case for legalising cannabis before prohibition can be repealed. All kinds of politicians, from Andrew Little to Peter Dunne, have trotted out this lazy deception.
This line of rhetoric is false because it relies on a more fundamental premise, which is that the manner cannabis was made illegal was legitimate in the first place.
The usual apologia is that the politicians are our lawful representatives and so the laws they pass are done so with our consent, and so the politicians have the consent of the governed, and so all the laws they have passed are legitimate, including the ones pertaining to cannabis prohibition.
Basic logic that even a child can understand will tell you that, in the case of cannabis, the lack of a victim makes the law against it categorically different to other laws.
Punching people in the face is bad because it causes suffering.
Stealing someone’s food is bad because it will make them suffer from hunger.
Killing people is bad because it causes suffering to the remaining friends and family (not to mention the person while they’re being killed).
Murdering, shooting, stabbing, raping, kidnapping, defrauding, robbing, stealing, assaulting and battering – all of these are crimes because they have victims.
Outside of the delusional fantasy role-playing world that judges, lawyers and politicians have invented, crimes are distinguished from non-crimes on the basis that crimes cause suffering, not on the basis that a bunch of paedophiles in Wellington have decreed them thus.
This might sound really obvious to any Buddhist readers out there, but to many Kiwis, conditioned from childhood to obey authority without ever questioning its legitimacy, it appears revelatory.
It also puts the moral responsibility back on us to consider if the laws being passed by our supposed representatives actually have the effect of reducing suffering in New Zealand or not. The responsibility is not on our political representatives to make moral decisions on our behalf, because politicians are men of silver and philosophy is the preserve of everyone.
One argument is that cannabis, even if not directly harmful, may be indirectly harmful because of long-term health considerations of the user that the general taxpayer has to pay to treat. This argument contends that we ought to wait for science to prove that cannabis is relatively harmless.
The truth is this – we don’t need to prove that science says cannabis should be legal because science was never used to make it illegal. We also don’t need to prove that cannabis is harmless because harmless is not the standard things have to reach in order to be legal.
It’s legal to consume any of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat or tobacco to whatever extent one likes and to have the taxpayer cover any medical costs that may arise.
It’s legal to fill the tank of your car up with petrol, a vital and ever-diminishing resource, and to drive around and around in circles for no reason.
It’s legal to join a rugby team and to hit another person in a tackle with the intent of injuring them and to break a bone oneself and to go on ACC.
It’s legal to go into a forest with a rifle and shoot dead a whole bunch of large mammals.
All of these activities arguably cause more harm than smoking cannabis does, even under the broadest interpretation of health issues.
The standard to make cannabis illegal – which has never been met and which never will be met – is that there is more suffering under a regime of cannabis freedom than under a regime of cannabis prohibition.
Until this standard is met, no further reason for using cannabis need be given than ‘I like smoking weed.’
After the reign of Graham Capill, Peter Dunne vied with Colin Craig and Nick Smith for the title of “New Zealand Politician Considered Most Likely To Get Sent Down For Kiddy Fiddling”, as Dunne is also a highly narcissistic, sexually repressed, out-of-touch Bible thumper – the prime demographic. But in the cold light of day, not even a dozen Beasts of Blenheim could have done as much damage to Aotearoa New Zealand as Peter Dunne.
This article limits itself to calculating the amount of financial damage Peter Dunne did to New Zealand through his one-man campaign to prevent even the possibility of reform to our expensive, vicious and counterproductive cannabis laws.
After the 2002 General Election, called in the wake of the collapse of the Alliance Party, Labour Leader Helen Clark had three possible options to help her stitch together a Government: New Zealand First, who wanted no immigration; the Greens, who wanted no genetic engineering; and United Future, who wanted no reform on social issues.
In the end it was apparent that big business strongly supported both mass immigration and genetic engineering, so cannabis users and gays and lesbians wishing to marry got thrown under the bus for the $$$$$. Helen Clark signed on the Wormrider’s bottom line for the support of his 8 MPs and the rest is history.
After the 2005 General Election things were slightly different. United Future had less influence on account of voters not being so easily tricked by a television gimmick this time around, so Labour was in a position to try and unfuck the country.
Dunne was able to get a cabinet position, cementing his reputation as “Hemhorroid of the House” by resisting all progress.
He continued to oppose progress on social issues by voting against the Civil Unions Bill, a half-arsed attempt at a gay marriage bill sold as an ingenious compromise with New Zealand’s legion of elderly Christian bigots, and, of course, by not allowing so much as a discussion about cannabis.
After 2008 the conservative National Government took power, and naturally they did not repeal cannabis prohibition as it directly serves major capitalist interests to have a competitor to the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries crushed.
Dunne managed to worm his way into the position of Associate Minister of Health, from where he was able to garrote all attempts at cannabis law reform in their infancy, most notably by skillful and successful actions in dividing the cannabis law reform movement.
The two most notable examples of this were declaring the grossly unsuitable fraudster Toni-Marie Matich to be the public face of cannabis law reform, thus damaging the credibility of the movement, and the Orwellian Psychoactive Substances Act, which made everything illegal and divided the movement into people who had read it and people who hadn’t.
So, aside from the couple of million that Dunne has leeched from the public funds in the form of an MP’s salary and perks, how much has he cost the country?
There is no simple calculation because it depends on the extent of the cannabis law reform that was prevented in the last window of opportunity presented by the Fifth Labour Government.
We know that full, Colorado-style reform would save New Zealand $500,000,000 per year in Police costs, court costs, prison costs, and lost tax revenue. Multiplying this by the 14 years since 2002, when Dunne first had his influence in preventing reform, gives us a figure of $7,000,000,000.
In reality, the Clark Administration would have likely brought in some kind of medicinal cannabis and/or decriminalisation in 2003/4, with full legalisation coming later, so the immediate savings might have been a third to a half of their final value, increasing as time went on.
This suggests a figure for the total wastage of Kiwi labour and resources due to Peter Dunne’s actions of between $3 and $7 billion.
This thought experiment ought to be a sobering one for anyone worried about Maori beneficiaries having too many kids and Chinese restaurants not paying taxes. If one politician can cost the country $3,000,000,000 because of moral and intellectual incompetence, all of our scrutiny ought to be directed at the ruling classes, and not on each other.
Violence is the scourge of our society. The long-term cumulative psychological damage from all the various acts of violence committed by New Zealanders is atrocious. For the most part, we all agree that violence is something that ought to be dealt to strictly, but we can’t agree on how.
This is the standard pattern of social interaction in New Zealand: Monday to Friday afternoon – work. Friday afternoon to Saturday night/Sunday morning – consume alcohol. Sunday – recover from the effects of the alcohol.
This pattern has served us for over a century.
Back in the day, life was cheap, and we didn’t care. Of course the working men who loaded up in the six o’clock swill went home and beat the shit out of their wives, but Abrahamic morality held way and women were considered the property of their menfolk.
New Zealand loves violence, but not in the way it’s usually portrayed. The All Blacks aren’t really violent because they play against consenting adult men. Rugby is sport, not violence. Kieran Read has never done anything on a sports field even one percent as violent as arresting and caging a medicinal cannabis user.
However, our culture is violent. We take people who create drugs that make people less violent and put them in cages, and we take people who create drugs that make people more violent and give them knighthoods.
Why do we do this?
Probably the main reason is a cultural artifact relating to the strategic considerations that led to New Zealand existing in the first place.
New Zealand was, after all, founded as a military colony, once British colonial planners came to appreciate that whoever controlled the Aotearoan archipelago could easily project power upon the poorly defended, but by now reasonably populated, Australian East Coast. Whoever controlled that controlled the continent.
Being founded as a military colony, it was natural for the ruling class to encourage a warrior culture among the New Zealanders, in case it was ever necessary to send them overseas to die for the Empire. This meant that New Zealanders had to be molded into a hard, cruel people, and that meant violence, and that meant alcohol.
So the booze flowed, and New Zealand bestowed all manner of honourable titles upon the men who kept the booze flowing and the fists flying. After all, if New Zealanders were given free access to a peaceful drug like cannabis, they’d be much less willing to go overseas to kill the enemies of the ruling classes of the Empire.
Some people will counter that no-one is forced to drink alcohol. Usually people making this argument are some kind of puritan or wowser who never does any drug because they hate themselves and are terrified of what they might find in their souls if they were compelled to take a look.
But the counterargument is that people are compelled to drink alcohol in New Zealand if they want to meet their natural social needs, because all attempts to build a recreational drug culture around anything other than alcohol are crushed by the Police.
Let’s not pretend that these social needs are not needs. Humans cannot survive alone – not for want of intelligence, adaptability or ingenuity but for mental health reasons. A total lack of social interaction will result in a oxytocin deficit which will lead to terminal depression.
Of course, cannabis users are just meeting up anyway, only in private and in smaller groups. This is perhaps a win for those who profit from the continuation of alcohol culture, such as shareholders in breweries and wineries. But it’s a massive loss for New Zealand.