Labour good on intentions but bad on detail


It is legislative laziness that ignores practical flaws in the policy behind it.

It was a weakness of the previous Government and it has now appeared in this one, on the subject of legalising cannabis for medicinal use.

All parties in Parliament appear to have been persuaded this would be a good thing to do. Doubt that the drug has any unique pain-killing properties have been put aside. Labour and the Greens – especially the Greens – want to be seen as liberal on drugs.

Labour mainly wants to be seen as compassionate to the terminally ill. Who doesn’t? But good government requires more than good intentions. The hard part is working out the practicalities of putting good intentions into effect. That is the bit Labour governments are inclined to duck – or delegate, which amounts to the same thing.

The new Government put a bill before Parliament that would have allowed terminally ill people to possess and use a drug that would remain illegal for anybody else. Quite how the drug would be cultivated, manufactured and supplied only to the terminally ill were details that did not unduly concern Labour MPs on the select committee that would have let the bill proceed if Labour and the Greens had a majority.

The Government bill is very flawed. It forces terminally ill people to use the black market to get pain relief. It actually incentivises law breaking!

Not surprisingly, many of the submissions to the select committee wanted legalisation extended to people not terminally ill but in chronic pain or with severe or debilitating illness such as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Labour’s response was that those patients “should continue to be able to access quality medicinal cannabis products on prescription.” Which begs the question, why would the terminally ill need access to a lower grade of cannabis products than they could get on prescription?

Many of the submissions also wanted the medicinal legalisation extended to growers, suppliers, friends and whanau, caregivers or nominated people since the terminally ill might not be able to obtain the drug for themselves. Labour could only answer lamely that the legal position of suppliers was “outside the scope of this bill.”

Likewise, allowing the terminally ill to grow their own cannabis was “outside the scope of this bill.”

So what was its purpose, other than to give Labour’s voters the impression the Government was doing something on this subject while, in fact, the difficult details it was ducking would very likely prove insurmountable.

This is not the first time. Ardern’s previous members’ bill were much the same. They achieved nothing except to say we care.

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