This story from the Herald archive was originally published in 2015.

Getting a bit peckish is a common side effect of cannabis consumption. But few dope smokers have made more sandwiches than Jamie Pink.

Jamie, of course, is the president of the Tribal Huks - the Sandwich Gang, as they have become known in the media - that feeds nearly 1000 kids a day in a number of low decile schools in and around Hamilton. Two weeks ago police busted Jamie smoking dope.

Jamie has a moral compass that dances around a bit but in rough-enough ways it generally points in the right directions.


Jamie doesn't like P. He's seen the damage it does to people and communities, but he does enjoy smoking marijuana in the evenings, it helps him to relax. He's not alone. Surveys show that in the past 12 months a population equivalent to the size of Christchurch and Dunedin combined smoked marijuana.

Personally, I prefer wine. Still, I don't damn Jamie, nor should any of us. Leaving aside the fact that marijuana remains illegal is utterly ridiculous (based on the costs of police time alone), we need to appreciate the dramatic transformation he is undergoing.

To turn from an anti-social lifestyle to a pro-social one is a very difficult task. And he's taking a whole gang - a gang - with him. For years the state has failed to transform gang members as Jamie is doing. Few people are putting more effort into their communities than he is.

When he slips up, we should see it as a speed bump along the road and not as a calamitous failure. This is part of desistance theory in which we must be realistic and see change as a process rather than a single event. Processes take time.

With this in mind what do we make of the Black Power member Albert Epere who in October controversially gained a $52,000 gardening contract with the Dunedin City Council?

Jamie has a moral compass that dances around a bit but in rough-enough ways it generally points in the right directions.

Here's a gang member trying to earn an honest dollar and turn his life around who was given a chance by a remarkably brave council.

Last week, he was arrested for speeding and having $10,000 in cannabis and cash. All rather untidy, this. The council has responded by suspending his contract while the matter is dealt with by the courts. Few would argue this isn't a sound course of action. Least of all me.

Despite a need for leeway when dealing with transformations from anti- to pro-social lifestyles, there is a line that has to be drawn. Smoking dope falls on one side, dealing falls on the other. Learning rarely occurs in consequence-free environments.


But there are consequences for Dunedin, too. Many will applaud that this rascal has been cut loose. Much of the public would have been scornful of giving him a chance in the first place. But this is short-sighted.

Are we likely to have more or less crime as a result?

Desistance theory suggests we should keep a door open for him. Encourage him to stay on track and continue working to better himself.

But whether the council and the city's voters have the stomach for this is, I suspect, unlikely at best.

Best evidence tells us second chances are vital to the big picture but few would blame the Dunedin City Council for feeling rather gun-shy.

Nobody likes to be made to look a fool.

Perhaps they'd be best served by going to have a sandwich with Jamie Pink.

• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury and the lead researcher at Independent Research Solutions. He specialises in research with practical applications.