MP: Allow pot crims role in industry
Greens’ Swarbrick counters Nats
People who have prior convictions for cannabis should be able to supply legal medicinal cannabis and, if recreational use became legal, be offered a clean slate, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says.
Swarbrick’s comments follow an email exchange — released to the National Party under the Official Information Act — showing the Greens had asked Health Ministry officials to look at proposals for medicinal cannabis legislation, including one that would “allow individuals with previous drug convictions to manufacture cannabis”.
The Greens’ proposal never came before the House, but that door has not closed.
Who should be eligible to supply medicinal cannabis will be a key aspect of the Government’s new regulatory framework, which will be in place by the end of the year following public consultation.
National’s health spokesman Shane Reti said medicinal cannabis manufacturers and employees should be “fit and proper persons”.
National has proposed that no one should be eligible to make medicinal cannabis if, among other things:
■ They have been convicted of any drugrelated or dishonesty crime, or any crime punishable by at least two years’ jail.
■ They have been “addicted or habituated” to the use of a controlled drug, prescription medicine or restricted medicine.
■ They have been bankrupt. ■ Their personal associations, such as gang members, should disqualify them.
“The industry was adamant that it understood the need to be absolutely squeaky clean in this new industry and they were up for that,” Reti said.
“The Greens have listened to one version of the pleadings from East Coast-based Hikurangi Enterprises [which has a licence for medicinal cannabis]and ignored the rest of the industry, who were completely behind the fit-andproper-persons requirements.”
He called the Greens “soft on drugs” but Swarbrick, the Green Party’s spokeswoman for drug law reform, dismissed this as “classic National Party hysteria”.
“If you’re convicted of something while it is illegal, you serve your time,” Swarbrick told the Herald.
“If that substance then becomes legal and regulated and you jump through the same hoops everyone else does, why shouldn’t you equitably be able to engage in that market?”
The people who have been disproportionately penalised by the war on drugs shouldn’t be excluded from participating in a legal market, she said.
She had visited Hikurangi and spoken with people taking a course at the Eastern Institute of Technology’s Ruatoria Regional Learning Centre on hemp production.
“Some of them have gone away for that substance and have served their time and are now they’re looking to use their skills and invest in their community. And this is a massive economic opportunity for them.”
It was Green Party policy to have regard for equity and social justice in drug law reform, but she said it was not yet party policy to allow those with previous cannabis convictions to work in the medicinal cannabis market.
“Regulations could potentially incorporate things like that, so the door isn’t closed on that,” she said.
“I guarantee we will have discussions on that point [during the Government’s public consultation process] and it’s something that should be discussed with maturity.”
Currently, licences for medicinal cannabis are only issued for medical or scientific research.
A binding referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use will take place at the 2020 election.
Who should be eligible to grow and supply medicinal cannabis will be a key aspect of the Government’s new regulatory framework.