The growth of the medicinal marijuana issue

An American I was talking to the other week had seen the media coverage of Helen Kelly’s raising of the medicinal marijuana issue, and noted that marijuana is already being steadily legalized across the United States. She said, I paraphrase, “you know the only reason it’s illegal is because the pharma industry can’t figure out how to monetize it, right?”

It’s an argument that sounds pretty spot-on when you see stories like this:

The parents of a 7-year-old girl have the green light to use medicinal cannabis to control their daughter’s severe seizures.

Karen and Adam Jeffries have Health Ministry approval to give their daughter Zoe the cannabis oil-based mouth spray Sativex for the next six months.

Each bottle lasts around four weeks and costs $1050. The Jeffries paid for the first script with a well-timed tax return and have set up a Givealittle page to help fund repeat scripts.

But Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has rejected calls to allow the use of raw cannabis for medical reasons, saying the Government’s policy was “not to decriminalise the cannabis leaf”, while there was not sufficient evidence for its medical value in an unprocessed form.

Over a thousand dollars a month for a product derived from a plant which has been cultivated for thousands of years? Yeah, that doesn’t feel right, does it?

Peter Dunne is one in a short line of government ministers who are firmly stuck in the Reefer Madness, “marijuana will destroy society” frame of drug control.

When he permitted the use of medicinal marijuana for Alex Renton, Dunne tried to insist this “wasn’t a precedent.” But back in May a poll showed nearly half of New Zealanders supported decriminalisation for medicinal marijuana, and the stories – like Helen Kelly’s, and Zoe Jeffries’ – have kept coming.

This feels like one of those issues which is only going to be talked about more and more. Like marriage equality, where even the United States is unafraid to go, we tend to follow. And politicians like Peter Dunne can figure out for themselves whether they want to be on the right side of history, or remembered as an anachronism in a bowtie.

The definition of irony …

… surely, must be Peter Dunne complaining (a) that the government hasn’t fulfilled its promises to him and (b) about the security of metadata:

“The question that the Law Commission identified about four years ago, the definition of metadata and the use or the way in which metadata can or cannot be utilised.

“And I think a lot of the issue about the interception and use of private communication is also about the interception and use of metadata.”

Mr Dunne said the Government had promised to clarify this.

“I would like to see the work on metadata get underway as soon as possible. I’ve been promised it for nearly two years and I am concerned the chain has been dragged. I think the intention now seems to be to wrap it all up in the review (later this year), which is fine, if in fact it leads to a conclusive outcome.”

Peter Dunne, of course, is the government minister who had to resign after refusing to hand over the content of 86 emails between him and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance, who broke the story of the report.

Vance was understandably hopping mad about the subsequent releasing of her phone records and tracking of her movements around Parliament – but Dunne himself can’t have been too fussed, given in July 2013 he was still supporting a law change which would allow the GCSB to collect the metadata and private data of New Zealanders.

There are still a number of unanswered questions about the GCSB report leak – namely, who did it, but also, why Peter Dunne “considered” leaking the report despite claiming he had no intention to “hurt” the government and why anyone should just take it on faith that he didn’t follow through.

But you have to have a chuckle at a man who:

  • by his own admission couldn’t continue as a minister in 2013
  • refused to hand over his personal emails to an investigation impacting our national security
  • had his own suspicious-looking activity revealed due to an inappropriate handing over of metada
  • nevertheless supported legislation to allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in the interests of national security
  • became a minister again only seven months post-resignation, after winning a key electorate seat and presumably promising not to make too much fuss

… now complaining that he’s not being taken seriously by his National handlers and that metadata is serious business.

No one really takes you seriously, minister. Your party barely scraped past 5,000 votes in 2014 and you retained your seat only because National ran a candidate who was afraid to say his own name in case people accidentally voted for him.

Perhaps, post-Northland-by-election, Dunne sees an opportunity to flex his muscles and show Key he isn’t to be taken for granted. And sure, Winston’s victory makes Dunne’s single vote (and Seymour’s single vote) more important.

But stamping his feet on an issue which only reminds people that he isn’t trustworthy and that he’ll do anything to get a portfolio probably isn’t going to help.

Northland isn’t Epsom – nor Ohariu

Danyl Mclauchlan has rebutted the spin around Winston’s victory in Northland – “Labour can’t criticise the Epsom deal now! Hypocrites!” very well. (And after I’d drafted this post, Rob Salmond made one, too! Great minds, etc etc.)

I’ve been a little disappointed in how many people have basically warned the lefties they know – oooh, you’d better not say that, that would look really bad, wouldn’t it?

Northland wasn’t Labour’s to give. New Zealand First didn’t need Labour’s help. Winston certainly isn’t going to turn around to Andrew Little and say “what policies would you like me to adopt so you can pretend you don’t really want to pass them?” And Andrew Little didn’t sit down for a farcical cup of tea photo opportunity (and then try to claim it was a “private” engagement when someone recorded his foolishly-uttered words.)

Northland isn’t Epsom.

Northland also isn’t Ohariu, which got very interesting last year. National fielded a candidate who was too scared to say his own name in case people ticked it (and gave him a nice safe list position so he wouldn’t scare the horses), but despite this Peter Dunne’s once-mighty majority was slashed to 700 – one of the lowest in the country. But the “deal” there took a very different form: the National Party basically pretended that Ohariu didn’t exist. They certainly didn’t do what they did in Northland, which was see bad poll results and massively over-react to protect their preferred candidate (which ironically would have meant undermining their actual candidate.)

And thus everyone assumed Ohariu was a (sorry) done deal, to the extent that local newspapers didn’t even mention the Labour candidate (the very talented Ginny Andersen) by name in some of their coverage, and many were shocked at the comical scenes from Dunne’s victory party – populated mainly by his staff.

But a deal was (sorry) done, nevertheless, and a man whose party could barely get more than 5,000 votes, who had to resign his ministerial portfolios in disgrace over leaking a confidential GCSB report, got a reprieve from retirement and the plum role of Minister of Internal Affairs.

That’s what a dirty deal looks like.

The Nation’s leaders’ debate

This morning in New Zealand politics can best be summed up with one fantastic image.

Image swiped and cropped from @petergraczer
TALK TO THE HAND, COLIN.

I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 9am to tune in to the first leaders’ debate of the election season – and it’s mostly Colin Craig’s fault. Had he not taken legal action to force the producers to give him a speaking slot I might honestly have missed that it was even on!

For that, and for trying to talk over Metiria Turei, resulting in the photo above, you have my grudging thanks, Colin.

In the true spirit of 21st century pseudo-journalism, here are my thoughts (and some others’) as they were tweeted in real time.

(Sale to overseas buyers, obviously.)

(It’s a great line, but also a deliberately-engineered political meme.)

(Full credit to @petergraczer for the fantastic pic of Metiria’s take-no-crap attitude.)