Hard News by Russell Brown


The korero we've been waiting for

If you follow this blog at all, you will know that I have been in a state of some despair at the quality of the media "debate" on the forthcoming cannabis law reform referendum. So it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge someone finally doing it well.

The Hui's panel discussion on the referendum and reform is absolutely worth your 25 minutes. It features New Zealand Drug Foundation chair Tuari Potiki, psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder, AUT senior law lecturer Khylee Quince and Dr Hirini Kaa, kaiārahi at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. All have clearly thought about the issues and all had useful things to say about what they do and don't want from reform – and I absolutely include probable "no" voter Hirini in that.

We got a good discussion of important questions about reform: the right age of legal use, where any tax windfall should go, the proper nature of any heath and social services funded by that windfall, the right of local communities to both benefit from and locally control any new industry, whether legalisation will erase the racial imbalance in drug prosecutions (to general agreement, no, but it should help somewhat). There was a universal distaste for the prospect of "Big Cannabis" (if there is anything on which all sides agree, it is this). Khylee noted later on Facebook that she'd intended to raise home-growing, saying that "if there is no space in any reform to allow people to grow their own, discrimination against Māori will continue."

The discussion was also given structure by the results of a fascinating and well-designed poll, which found a striking 75% of Māori in favour of legalising and regulating cannabis. Notably, an even greater proportion of respondents – 78% – want to be voting in 2020 on a law already passed by Parliament. It's been said many times that this is an issue where Māori have a particular stake. On the evidence of the poll results, Māori voters have also earned a voice by actually understanding what's going on.

It's ironic that The Hui is broadcast by the same company that has been serving up Duncan Garner's clickbait bullshit, but this is a sphere replete with ironies.

What we got was the korero we've been waiting for. It doesn't need Bob McCoskrie or Duncan Garner; it needs people of good faith. We can only hope that as the referendum comes closer, the broader community will get the discussion it deserves.

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