Cannabis is now legal in 15 US states. Photo: Getty Images
Cannabis is now legal in 15 US states. Photo: Getty Images

The BulletinJuly 26, 2018

The Bulletin: Competing cannabis bills spark confusion, cynicism

Cannabis is now legal in 15 US states. Photo: Getty Images
Cannabis is now legal in 15 US states. Photo: Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: A new medical cannabis bill has hit the member’s ballot, abortion on the agenda on Parliament’s forecourt, and justice minister Andrew Little’s message to Australia.

There will be competing bills on medical marijuana, after National MP Dr Shane Reti released his own in opposition to the government’s bill. The party says their bill would widen access, and also allow for high quality domestic production, under certain conditions. Stuff reports that under National’s version, which has been submitted into the member’s bill lucky dip, all loose leaf and edible cannabis products would remain banned. Pills and liquids would be allowed though, and could be purchased from pharmacies by those who hold a doctor-issued license.

The difference here with the government’s bill is worth quoting, because it’s quite a crucial detail: “This would contrast with the Government bill, which provides a legal defence for cannabis possession and consumption for those with terminal conditions, but does not provide a legal path to selling or obtaining it.”

It is on these legislative points that commentator and drug policy expert Russell Brown says National’s bill goes further, and is more precise, than the government’s bill. He argues that in many ways it’s a better piece of legislation compared to what the government are putting up. In terms of requiring a license rather than a prescription from a doctor, the bill also has similarities to a bill put forward by the Green Party’s Chloe Swarbrick, which National voted en masse to defeat. Acting PM Winston Peters described National’s move as playing “silly politics,” reports One News. And on Newstalk ZB this morning, political editor Barry Soper said the move was unadulterated cynicism from National, after their nine years in government.

If this all sounds ridiculous, that would be because it is. The government bill that went through select committee still has big holes in it – for example, Russell Brown added on twitter that “given that the govt bill will go back unchanged, it still means hospices will be in breach of Section 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act if their terminally ill patients take advantage of the statutory defence it offers to them as individuals. This is muppetry.”

One thing that neither bill has any interest in touching with a barge pole is the idea of recreational cannabis. But as part of the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement, a referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use has to be held by the 2020 election at the latest. If that were to win, then a whole lot of this wrangling might have been for nothing. Remember, as per recently released polling, marijuana law reform is astonishingly popular with the public, and only getting more so over time, and yet still politicians have managed to tie themselves in knots over the issue.

Abortion was on the agenda on the Parliamentary forecourt yesterday, with duelling protests. Radio NZ reported on the various visual tactics both sides were using, including laying out thousands of pairs of baby booties to symbolise the number of abortions on one side, and Handmaid’s Tale costumes to symbolise a lack of choice for women on the other side. Emily Writes was there, and gave her own thoughts on the day.

The other interesting angle was a group of six MPs, all women from different parties, joining together to support pro-choice law reform. Two male MPs spoke in favour of the pro-life position. As the issue would likely be a conscience vote if it ever came before Parliament, it’s not unusual to see MPs from the same party on opposite sides.

Justice minister Andrew Little has issued a stern response to Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton on The Spinoff. Mr Little criticised Australia’s deportations policy, which caused Mr Dutton to tell the justice minister to “reflect a little more on the relationship between Australia and New Zealand”. Andrew Little has now had some time to reflect, and still thinks upholding human rights is important. As an aside, Peter Dutton is the same guy who argued against showing compassion to asylum seekers, in case it encouraged others.

The nurses union have recommended the latest offer from DHBs, which will now go to a vote, reports Newshub. The new offer contains more clarity around safe staffing levels, more consistency on pay steps, and sets a firm date for pay equity implementation. Voting will start on the 31st of July, and run through to August 6.

The trade deficit  for a June year is at its largest level in a decade, amid a rise in demand for imported goods, reports the NZ Herald. An export dip in 2015 led to a deficit, which has been rising ever since, according to Stats NZ figures.

This is a curious yarn from InterestHousing minister Phil Twyford sought cabinet approval to adjust the upper limit of Kiwibuild price caps, but was knocked back. He argued that it was because the housing market is dynamic, and insisted he wasn’t disappointed by Cabinet’s decision. The upper limit for Auckland houses is currently $650,000.

Those two Canadian extremist speakers have officially cancelled their tour to New Zealand, reports Newshub. Without wanting to get into any of the politics of whether Mayor Phil Goff over-reached, or the fraught debate over free speech vs hate speech, The Spinoff has issued an official response to the news that they won’t be speaking in Auckland.

And a brief correction: I misread misrepresented the position taken by children’s commissioner Andrew Becroft on mandatory reporting of child abuse. He is not in favour of mandatory reporting, but he does favour a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to child abuse, and wants to see “a climate in New Zealand in which reporting abuse is a natural response to awareness of abuse.”

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Right now on The Spinoff: Alex Casey met Dynamo, one of the world’s leading magicians. Mark Hanna casts a sceptical eye over an extraordinary power-saving claim. And Calum Hodgson pays tribute to Biddy Fraser-Davies of Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese, who recently passed away.

Here’s an interesting new angle on the whole Eden Park charity concert stoush that has been raging for the past few weeks. Just to catch you up on the major points: Sir Ray Avery, businessman and philanthropist, wants to hold a blockbuster event to raise money for his low-cost infant incubators aimed at saving the lives of babies in the third world. Former PM Helen Clark, along with some of the local residents, oppose the concert, because it could open the way  for more concerts at the venue.

But what if the central claim in all of it – that the concert would save the lives of a million babies – wasn’t exactly watertight to begin with? And if that was the case, what evidence would help argue either side?

That’s basically what this Newsroom feature, by Eloise Gibson, boils down to. Are the remarkable claims made about Sir Ray’s work able to be backed up? And if they can’t be backed up, why doesn’t anyone ever point that out? They’re important questions to raise. Here’s an excerpt:

“After he was named New Zealander of year – and knighted, in 2011– it became more difficult for people to countenance publicly expressing concerns about his projects. Despite being successful people themselves, several former associates said they felt they’d be hounded if they ever spoke publicly.

Today there are three products listed on Medicine Mondiale’s website: a protein bar, an IV drip controller and the incubator. None of them are yet in production, but we asked Avery for an update on each.”

By the way, there should be a decision made this week on whether the concert can go ahead.

The U-20 All Whites are in danger of going into World Cup qualifiers seriously understrength, reports Stuff. 12 players who could have been in the mix are out for various reasons – worryingly, many of those withdrawals are by choice. In the case of Liberato Cacace and Sarpreet Singh, they’re focusing on the upcoming Phoenix season, perhaps because despite being so young, they’ll probably be key players for the club – Singh especially.

From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that while making and selling electricity from the comfort of home might sound like some dodgy online scam, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

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