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(Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)
(Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)

The BulletinOctober 12, 2018

The Bulletin: Police and the logistics of legal weed

(Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)
(Radio NZ: Richard Tindiller)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Police discuss logistics of legal weed, amount beneficiaries owe to MSD revealed, and a thorough rundown on why houses are unaffordable. 

With a reeferendum coming by 2020 at the latest, the police are starting to give serious thought to how they will go about their jobs if marijuana legalisation is approved. Various stories and comments out of the Police Association’s conference have been incredibly illuminating about recent trends, and where things might be going next.

First of all, there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence that police have started decriminalising cannabis by stealth, and now there’s some statistical evidence that backs that up. Radio NZ reports that in the 20 years to 2014, the number of arrests for cannabis possession plummeted by 70%, and in that same time the number of warnings being given out doubled. Legalisation advocates often say police should ‘go and focus on real crime’ as it were – well, these stats show that they are doing exactly that. Massey’s Dr Chris Wilkins, who come out with the data, says it’s a clear sign police are becoming less and less likely to see cannabis possession as an offence worth prosecuting.

But were cannabis to be legalised, it’s very likely that it would still be highly regulated. One of the things being considered by the police is whether they themselves would be able to smoke, reports the Dominion Post. As anyone who’s ever debated workplace drug testing will be able to tell you, cannabis use can be detected in a person days or even weeks after impairment has worn off. And the Police Association are concerned about what the implications for officers would be if they were involved in an incident – a shooting, for example – and were to subsequently test positive. Testing potentially impaired drugged drivers is also something that will need to be taken into account – currently developing roadside tests for that is scientifically fraught.

Police minister Stuart Nash has been hedging his bets about whether he supports legalisation or not, reports Newshub. He wants to see what the framework for these issues looks like before taking a position. But he is on board with not escalating the war on drugs further, and is also envisioning what a legalised regime would look like. A reminder – at this stage there isn’t really detail on exactly what the referendum question will be.

Taken together, these are all signs that police are getting on board with the government’s goal of treating drugs (or at least, one drug) as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention can see that the war on drugs has utterly failed to prevent social harm – in fact, it has often made it worse. And it’s not like the health approach will completely eliminate social harm from drugs either, but it should be the goal of any public organisation to pursue policies that will do the least damage. Finally, if you haven’t read Toby Morris’s Side Eye on this topic from yesterday, I highly encourage you to check it out.

About $1.5 billion is owed by beneficiaries and those who have received loans to the Ministry of Social Development, reports One News. That debt is mostly interest free, but payback is enforced. As a result, advocates say that pushes beneficiaries into the arms of loansharks, because benefit levels aren’t high enough to both pay money back and cover the bare essentials of life.

Speaking of loansharks, this story from Stuff this morning is an absolute nightmare. An Auckland man took out a $900 dollar loan. But now because of spiralling interest, he pays back $2000 every 58 days, and still can’t get out of debt. The man estimates he’s paid the sharks between $30,000-40,000 dollars now.

You may have heard house prices are stabilising, but that still doesn’t really make them much more affordable. The reason why houses have become so expensive in the space of a few decades is unpacked here by Stuff’s Charlie Gates, who has crunched the numbers. He found that it really is because of sweeping economic changes within NZ that mean many young people can’t buy houses, rather than the stereotype about it being down to spending choices (it’s not because of the smashed avocado)

Should Auckland trade Eden Park to housing developers, in order for them to build a waterfront stadium in return? According to Newsroom, that’s a possible deal that has been suggested by a private consortium. It could be a win-win, unless of course you don’t believe Auckland should have a waterfront stadium in the first place.

If you’ve been following the debate over trams and trains in Auckland over the last week, this today from the NZ Herald’s Simon Wilson is a must read. He argues that it’s not that the train proposal is a bad idea – but it’s that the light rail tram plans have been extensively analysed, and will do far more to bring communities around the city as a whole alive. And while all up it’s going to cost eye-wateringly large amounts of money, Wilson argues that neglect of this sort of infrastructure has broken Auckland. Anyone sitting in park on the motorways at the start of the day would find it hard to disagree with that.

I tossed up whether to put this in news or sport, but I think it fits best here in news. The government will put $10 million towards increasing participation and visibility in women’s sport, reports Newshub. There are also targets around getting more women into top coaching positions, and onto governance boards of sporting organisations. Madeleine Chapman has written about this for The Spinoff in an insightful piece about what this will mean for keeping women in sport.

The sharemarket had a nasty day yesterday, but analysts spoken to by the NBR (paywalled) say it’s a correction rather than a crash. In fact, it could even be good for investors sitting on money, because the sharemarket was becoming so overheated they were finding it difficult to find a spot to park their cash.

ACC is going to pay back about $100 million to businesses caught up in being overcharged for the levies, reports Radio NZ. However, there are about 300,000 affected businesses so the actual amount each one get will be on average in the hundreds of dollars. The number of businesses includes a bit over 100,000 people who are self-employed.

Former prisoners are having to lie to prospective employers to get jobs, reports Radio NZ. It’s one of the biggest barriers to rehabilitation, and just under a third of former prisoners end up back behind bars within a year of release. Being able to get a job can make a world of difference.

Meanwhile, it’s terrible timing to include this because the competition ends today, but the ODT has been publishing prose from inmates at Otago Corrections Facility, and they want your help to pick the best. Have a read of some of the work and then pick your favourite by emailing the journo running it.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Maria Slade makes blockchain comprehensible. Elle Hunt writes about the battle to get proper Whittakers chocolate in the far-flung colony of London. And Danyl Mclaughlan has written a bleak but definitive piece summing up public interest and political action on climate change, and why we can’t necessarily look to our political leaders for salvation.

It’s safe to say a lot of you aren’t feeling like you live in a country full of fair and competitive markets. After the call for feedback on what industries should be looked at by the government after the Commerce Amendment bill is passed, there was quite a volume of response. I won’t be able to get remotely close to all of it in here.

It was all sparked by fuel of course, and that got a wide airing. Two more that came up in yesterday’s Bulletin also got a bit of a response – the supermarkets, and the building supplies market have also come in for a bit of criticism. Now, I should point out here that what we’re talking about is perception – people feel ripped off. Until the studies are conducted it’s going to be tricky to assess whether they actually are.

Rebecca wanted to hear more about the banking and insurance sectors, which is an interesting one given the Royal Commission going on in Australia at the moment. So far the sector has resisted calls for a similar version in New Zealand, but this could end up being another way in to seeing if banks are really doing the best they can for customers. Various readers also wondered if telcos, energy companies, liquor wholesalers and public transport services would be worth looking into. But it’s more than just a sense that things are sometimes expensive. It’s a sense that it’s unfairly expensive.

If you’re already getting hyped for the Mate Ma’a Tonga vs Kangaroos game in Auckland next weekend, don’t forget: The Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns are also playing this weekend. And it’s not looking like many people have remembered that, if ticket sales are anything to go by. The Tongan game is set to sell out, but the Kiwis triple header has seen bizarrely slow sales, reports the NZ Herald. It might seem like a strange state of affairs, but anyone driving around Auckland in the past two weeks will have seen Tongan flags everywhere, so that game selling out isn’t too surprising.

From our partners, Vector’s sustainability manager Karl Check explains why the company is pushing for more urban forests, despite recent storms in Auckland bringing trees down on powerlines, and cutting electricity to parts of the city.

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