20 Oct 2017

The Greens' drug reform policy

9:17 pm on 20 October 2017

The Green Party has signalled a referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use as part of its confidence and supply deal with Labour.


The Greens say it's time for a referendum on personal cannabis use. Photo: Public domain

Its leader, James Shaw, has said New Zealand would have a referendum and it was time to test public opinion on the question of personal marijuana use.

"After [the late trade unionist] Helen Kelly's medicinal cannabis campaign and other moves to move towards a more regulated market model in places like Colorado and Hawaii and some of the states in Canada ... it does seem that the public mood has shifted.

"So we thought well maybe it is time to put that to the test," Mr Shaw said.

Ms Kelly, the former Council of Trade Unions leader, was diagnosed with lung cancer and her attempts to manage led to her battle to get medical cannabis legalised.

James Shaw at the Greens headquarters in Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Drug reform policy

The Greens have advocated for an evidence-based approach with a focus on health, as opposed to a punitive approach via the criminal justice system.

In the run-up to the election, the parties with a pro-reform approach were Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, United Future and the Māori party. Others in support of reform were The Opportunities Party and the Legalise Cannabis Party.

The Green policy - which dates from November last year - supports legalisation of medicinal cannabis and personal use with limitations and restrictions, such as a minimum age.

In terms of general drug reform policy, the Greens say any approach should be rational and evidence-based.

"There can be adverse health, social and economic consequences from the use of drugs for both individuals and society," the policy said.

"Not all drug use is abusive or problematic."

Its primary focus should be improving public health instead of punishing those who use drugs and reducing harm, the policy says.

"In government, the Green Party would seek to use objective and health-centred legislation ... to re-evaluate the relative harms and appropriate legal and and regulatory status of psychoactive substances."

On cannabis-specific policy, the party calls for personal use to be legal, including cultivation, with an age limit. Driving laws would change and be "replaced with one that is based on cannabinoid levels that correlates with impairment".

The policy says medical use would be allowed, and penalties would be removed for anyone who was terminally ill, or suffering from a chronic or debilitating condition. For therapeutic use, people would need the support of a registered medical practitioner, which would also mean relatives or a nominated helper could administer medicinal cannabis to a patient without fear of prosecution.

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