Decriminalisation possible?

Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says the Government has no intention of pushing forward with cannabis decriminalisation – but his party would allow their MPs to vote freely on the matter if it came up as a members’ bill.

This opens up a narrow path for some form of decriminalisation of cannabis, despite the narrow loss for legalisation at last year’s referendum.

Faafoi made his comments after a new poll showed some form of decriminalisation had strong majority support – with 49 per cent backing full legalisation and 20 per cent backing just decriminalisation.

Which reinforces the tactical error by the Greens in demanding the referendum be on legalisation, not decriminalisation. You achieve sustainable change by smaller moves.

We saw this with same sex marriage. Doing civil unions first, paved the way for same sex marriage.

It is unlikely that a Labour member would put up a members’ bill on the issue given the party’s position on “respecting the referendum” – but any other MP could also put a bill forward, in a hope to win over 61 MPs in the 120-seat Parliament and change the law.

Indeed, under new rules for this Parliament such a bill could skip the “balloting” for members’ bills if an MP could gather the support of 61 MPs who aren’t ministers or parliamentary under-secretaries.

This is pretty hard to achieve. The distribution of non-exec MPs is:

  • Labour 39
  • National 33
  • ACT 10
  • Greens 8
  • Maori 2

Even if every Labour, Greens and Maori non-exec MP was in favour that only gets you 49 MPs. You need another 12 from National and ACT. And I doubt you’d get every Labour MP.

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