Push to legalise Canterbury cannabis rubbished

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The Earthquake Recovery Minister's office has rubbished a claim by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's powers could be used to relax cannabis laws in the region.

The party's Canterbury recovery spokesman Robert Wilkinson said if its core policy could not be implemented nationally, if in a position of power, the party would instruct Cera to legalise cannabis in Canterbury only.

"Cera has wide powers to suspend or relax any New Zealand law except the Bill of Rights Act," Mr Wilkinson said.

"The people of Christchurch have already suffered enough stress following the earthquakes, legalising cannabis would relieve some of the pressure."

Mr Wilkinson said he had previously worked for the Earthquake Commission and the region would receive an economic windfall if it became the country's sole supplier of legal cannabis.

A special levy from the cannabis sales could be used to pay down Christchurch City Council debt and pay for the rebuild, he said.

However, a spokesman for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's office said the party had overestimated Cera's powers, which could only be used for the core purpose of earthquake recovery.

"They're not carte blanche to use and so you would have to make a case that you were speeding up or removing hindrances to earthquake recovery.

"It's quite a specific act and it all pertains to earthquake recovery," the spokesman said.

"Also the use of the act has a panel of judges and Government experts that we have to inform of intended uses of the act and whilst we could technically push through changes in opposition to them, that's never happened, which is indicative of the way we've used those powers and I'm quite sure in this case they would oppose it."

Labour leader David Cunliffe, who is currently in Christchurch, was asked today about Labour's position on the decriminalisation of marijuana in New Zealand.

He said it would be a conscience issue for Labour and was not a priority.

"I don't support decriminalisation. I do want to take a harm-based approach and a health-based approach.

"I'm personally comfortable with a summary offence for personal possession, but that's a matter of conscience."

The internet Mana party have also today called for a "complete review of New Zealand drug laws, with an immediate focus on cannabis law reform".

Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira said the party had reached a consensus with the internet Party that natural cannabis use should be managed as a health issue, not a crime issue.

However, the starting point for Mana was that cannabis was a harmful drug, along with alcohol and cigarettes, he said.

The internet Mana party was working on determining its stance on decriminalisation, but supported the use of the drug for medical purposes.

Internet Party leader Laila Harre said there was "clear evidence of the effectiveness and non-toxicity of cannabis in the management of a number of conditions".

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the decriminalisation issue should be decided following a robust debate "with all the elements of the issue discussed".

"What I've said to the people on both sides is, it should be decided by way of referendum and we expect everybody to live with the results."

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie described the internet Mana policy as "potty" and said decriminalising marijuana was the wrong path to take.

- Additional reporting Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

- APNZ

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