The Herald reports:
The Government has found itself in the embarrassing position of jointly financing a $165,000 conference on drug policy with one of the world’s leading advocates of decriminalising marijuana use.
Not sure this is an issue, as the funding does not appear to give any input into the agenda or speakers.
Billionaire currency speculator George Soros’ Open Society Institute has given $35,000 to this week’s symposium, which will be attended by Government ministers, police and a judge and will examine New Zealand’s drug laws.
Mr Soros is known for financing drug reform campaigns, and most recently backed a referendum in the American state of Massachusetts which decriminalised possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Soros needs something to do, now Bush is no longer in office. He spent almost NZ$50 million in 2004 trying to stop Busg get re-elected.
The Ministry of Health confirmed its funding of the symposium last week. This was after Mr Ryall told the ministry to review its involvement with all conferences, and leaned on it to cancel a conference of more than 300 health professionals that would have cost $123,000.
The spokeswoman said Mr Ryall – who was listed on a draft agenda to open the symposium – found out about the ministry’s sponsorship only late last week. She said it would now be opened by associate health minister Peter Dunne, who would be telling those attending “the Government absolutely does not support the decriminalisation of cannabis, and is committed to a strong enforcement of that law”.
Certain Government Departments seem to be having trouble understaning what a “no surprises” policy means.
Personally I think it is a good thing if a drug policy conference debates, ummm well drug policy. But there is a legitimate question about whether Government Departments should fund a conference considering such issues, when the Government is not seeking to change its policy.
Labour leader Phil Goff said he would be concerned if there was “any motivation” by conference organisers to legalise marijuana, which the Labour Party opposed.
That’s an interesting statement, and a sign I think of the Goff leadership. Labour under Clark made some moves towards de-criminalisation, but then ruled it out as part of agreements with United Future. Now they are not constrained by United Future, it is fascinating Goff unilaterally declares the Labour Party position. I suspect a secret poll of the Labour Caucus would find close to half, and maybe more than half, quite open to considering decriminalisation on its merits.