COMMENT:

So we've got a date for a referendum on dope: election day 2020.

It will be binding and its timing looks like a canny ploy by Labour and the Greens to mobilise the young, the bums and the wayward to get off the couch and actually vote.

Maybe I'm too cynical, but is the cannabis referendum actually being used as bait to try to woo them to the ballot box (and win their party vote too?)

Advertisement

There are many pros and cons to legalising cannabis. I accept that. But the bottom line for me is this: would legalisation improve the health, well-being and productivity of New Zealand? No, it would not. How could it?

So why legalise it? Why capitulate to the cannabis crowd, just because a few other countries have? Why surrender?

Why would we want to throw even more fuel on the fire of our mental health crisis, particularly among our youth? Why add to the scrapheap of wasted lives? I have seen its insidious effects on far too many people I care about. Stolen potential. Broken lives.

But there's a broader theme unfolding here, that spells political danger for the Government. They could cook their own goose.

Andrew Little's happy-clappy Justice Summit set the tone. Look at the firestorm over the Rouxle Le Roux sentence. The mood music is growing louder.

This Government is perceived as soft on crime and dysfunction. They want to empty the jails.

They'd prefer the police don't prosecute recreational drug users, whether it's pot or P in their pocket.

This narrative, this perception keeps building. Soft on crime. And dysfunction.

So this referendum on legalising dope could actually play right into the opposition's hands. It could be the tipping point, the final straw. The killer blow that seals Labour's perception problem: Soft on crime.

Is the Government playing with political fire? Time will tell. But middle New Zealand is certainly watching.

* Mike Yardley is a Newstalk ZB host and is this week presenting the Mike Hosking Breakfast show.