Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Drugs and why Dunne did it

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to FletcherB,

    I don’t follow this issue very closely but hasn’t this been a massive slow u-turn by Peter Dunne?

    I believe this comes under the heading of “when I’m presented with contrary evidence, I change my mind, what do you do?”

    There's a similar story with his predecessor, Jim Anderton, who came into the job deeply suspicious of needle exchanges and wound up winning funding to make them free to access. They get exposed to evidence.

    Although when I interviewed Dunne last year, he insisted that he'd always held such views and making no change to the law on cannabis a condition of United Future's coalition support for Labour was only a sop to the nutbars in his caucus at the time who wanted to make the law even more draconian.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    15 years in the job. I'm sorry, but professing good intentions and yet doing very little beyond temporarily legalizing much, much more dangerous alternatives have worn my patience well thin with this character. He sat square in this position, blocking anyone else from having it, and claims he always wanted to legalize. I find it as convincing as I find Jim Bolger's renouncement of neoliberalism. When it would have made a difference was the time to announce such views. Now, it sounds like a sop to what little remains of his voter demographic, and if he is ousted, he will never have achieved something he claims he always believed in. As with Bolger "I'm sorry" doesn't cut it when we're talking about people holding this kind of power.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    That is an unfair and untrue comment

    Obvious hyperbole, I'd say. He'd need to be in his eighties. For the excessively factual, he was first a minister in 1987 (for Labour) and, has been seated in a ministerial limo, or at least a government supporting MP, for most years since then (1990-95 is the only time I can see his being an opposition backbencher).

    And I don't think politicians, in particular ones who consider they can tell us what to put in our bodies, deserve fairness.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    Give me a stoner over a drunk anyday

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7896 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The unfair comment related to Greg O'Connor, not Peter Dunne. Peter Dunne has been in Parliament for 30 years or so and some of it as my local MP. In the last decade or so he has had the infuriating habit of saying and doing nothing much until the last few weeks before an election and then coming out with a lot of liberal (or 'common sense') policy just in time to be noticed and re-elected. Once the election has passed and he has joined the latest government he goes quiet again. Last time it was his opposition to the TPPA which was widely reported in the local media. After the election he happily voted for it, denying his earlier opposition. So he might be saying stuff about cannabis law reform now but as to actually doing anything about it - highly doubtful.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3205 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m sorry, but professing good intentions and yet doing very little beyond temporarily legalizing much, much more dangerous alternatives

    No, they were legal for years before that. The Psychoactive Substances Act was actually a very bold initiative, one that passed with only one dissenting vote in Parliament. Clearly, synthetic cannabinoids were the wrong thing to be regulating, but that’s what was for sale in dairies at the time it was passed. The act may yet prove to be useful in the way Dunne envisages, we’ll see. Its main problem is the animal testing ban forced in by an amendment voted for by National and Labour and campaigned for by Trevor Mallard and the Greens. (The Greens abstained on the amendment but supported the testing ban.)

    have worn my patience well thin with this character. He sat square in this position, blocking anyone else from having it, and claims he always wanted to legalize.

    Wait, what? He should have given up his ministerial post? For, presumably, some no-name regional Nat? Seriously? How do you think that would have worked out?

    I’m puzzled about what you think he should have achieved. He delivered the National Drug Policy, which is a good, progressive document, undone only by its incompatibility with the law. He has also publicly backed drug-checking at festivals and his staff are in regular and friendly communication with MCANZ on medical cannabis approvals. It could be so much worse.

    I’ve been disappointed by Dunne at times, but I’m perpetually amazed by people who think he’s the problem. He isn’t. Try Simon Power, John Key, Jonathan Coleman and Bill English. For that matter, try Andrew Little. Dunne has made law reform (including the decriminalisation of all drugs, which would make NZ the only country other than Portugal to do so) and the regulated sale of cannabis the policy of his tiny party. What else do you believe he can do?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    So he might be saying stuff about cannabis law reform now but as to actually doing anything about it – highly doubtful.

    Yup. I'm not buying it. The guy is like a double agent for prohibition.

    I’m puzzled about what you think he should have achieved. He delivered the National Drug Policy, which is a good, progressive document, undone only by its incompatibility with the law.

    If he genuinely believed in legalization all along, then I think he should have made a damned stand on it, from the position he held. Sometime before now, when it's likely he's not going to make another term. Those other achievements? I really think some no-name regional Nat could very well have done better with 15 odd years to burn on it (although of course quite a few of those years it could have been a no-name city Labour MP). Sure, it could have been worse. It could also have been a damned sight better. That's the story of Peter Dunne. "Could have been worse".

    I'm not disparaging that he's NOW, finally, after having entered Parliament when I was 13 years old, coming out that he actually always believed in this and what is left of his party will throw all of it's support into it. But I'm not about to forget that he held the portfolio responsible for it for over a decade and still could not man up and do it then. That shows that he has always put his political career ahead of his beliefs, and I think drug policy and it's its victims in this country have been casualties of that cowardice.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    If he genuinely believed in legalization all along, then I think he should have made a damned stand on it, from the position he held.

    So your problem is that he listened to evidence and changed his mind?

    Sometime before now, when it’s likely he’s not going to make another term. Those other achievements? I really think some no-name regional Nat could very well have done better with 15 odd years to burn on it (although of course quite a few of those years it could have been a no-name city Labour MP).

    On some other planet, perhaps. On this one, any reform advocate will tell you that the bloc in the way of reform is in the National Party. The Greens (who have clarified their policy in the past year too) are clearly on board, and so, to one degree or another will be some portion of the Labour caucus, the Māori Party (although they haven’t really thought it through) and maybe even NZ First. United Future and the Greens have the most similar policies, although UF’s is the more radical.

    I get it, you dislike Dunne. Fair enough, lots of people do, and his pomp can make him hard to like at times. But I write about this stuff for a job and I talk to advocates all the time and periodically to him. I’m very clear on whether he’s the problem: he isn’t.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The animus towards Dunne is quite reminiscent of the way people kept on hurling invective at his predecessor, Anderton, even as he was doing some quite progressive things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    BTW, Dunne actually was replaced for a time as associate Health minister by a no-name Nat from the regions: Todd McClay.

    Here's McClay, last month, rushing to the press to denounce Gareth Morgan's cannabis decriminalisation proposal:

    "Young people taking drugs and voting should never be linked. Drug abuse is harmful particularly to our young.

    "I have worked hard to remove drugs from our community and will never support any change that increases the risk to Rotorua youth from drugs."

    Tell me again how Dunne's the problem.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    So your problem is that he listened to evidence and changed his mind?

    Well, from what you said earlier:

    Although when I interviewed Dunne last year, he insisted that he’d always held such views and making no change to the law on cannabis a condition of United Future’s coalition support for Labour was only a sop to the nutbars in his caucus at the time who wanted to make the law even more draconian.

    ..it's pretty clear that there was no change of mind going on, just a change in what he now considers politically expedient.

    On this one, any reform advocate will tell you that the bloc in the way of reform is in the National Party.

    Yes, the very party that he supports with confidence and supply, and was allowed this position by. They clearly think it's in safe hands. I pretty much agree with them. They have no need to install one of their own, since they are getting what they want as a "concession" to get not only confidence and supply for their government, but also stasis on cannabis law reform. If National get in again, I feel pretty confident that it would become politically expedient, based on everything he has ever done in the role, to expect him to compromise on this. Based only on 5 times around the block. To be blunt, if Labour get in, I'd expect him to compromise on this at the slightest whiff that Labour aren't ready. Even if he holds the balance of power (again).

    If cannabis reform had any urgency at all for him, don't you think it would have shown, at least a little bit? That he might have spoken out stridently on a matter pertaining to his own portfolio and his own beliefs as well? Always it's weasel words, waiting for evidence, blocking it on some specific or other, some last morsel of risk to him. People died in great pain while he fumbled around and fucked it up. Yes, now it's a policy. Not something he's pressing the government on right now as a Minister in charge of the portfolio. Where are the speeches in Parliament? Where's his campaign message, his public statements that having seen all the evidence presented over 15 years in the role that he really, finally, actually stands for something other than centrism?

    Fair enough, lots of people do, and his pomp can make him hard to like at times.

    Oh, yes! I really don't like him. He comes across to me like an Anglican minister preaching in their softcore-barely-even-believe-in-God kind of way, and this is him begging his God, the political center, to give him a death-bed absolution. My bet is that his God has stopped listening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Tell me again how Dunne’s the problem.

    Because functionally it's as if McClay still held the portfolio.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm a bit frustrated this is all turning into an argument about Dunne rather than a discussion of policy, but I suppose it's my fault for putting his name in the headline.

    I'm genuinely excited by the fact that the Act will have to be rewritten after the election(the process actually begins in November). It's a special time.

    One win I think will be highly achievable is Section 12:

    12 Use of premises or vehicle, etc
    (1)
    Every person commits an offence against this Act who knowingly permits any premises or any vessel, aircraft, hovercraft, motor vehicle, or other mode of conveyance to be used for the purpose of the commission of an offence against this Act.
    (2)
    Every person who commits an offence against this section is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term—
    (a)
    not exceeding 10 years where a Class A controlled drug was the controlled drug or one of the controlled drugs in relation to which the offence was committed:
    (b)
    not exceeding 7 years where paragraph (a) does not apply but a Class B controlled drug was the controlled drug or one of the controlled drugs in relation to which the offence was committed:
    (c)
    not exceeding 3 years in any other case.

    This is the impediment to harm reduction services at events. A promoter who acknowledges there are people taking drugs in his hovercraft faces 10 years in jail – or, more realistically, the voiding of his insurance.

    It's a relatively minor amendment to create an exception for broadly-defined harm reduction services. This alone would put us ahead of most of the world. Dunne and his officials strongly support it, the police probably will too and I think Jacinda Ardern could persuade her colleagues. Ideally, harm reduction, including drug-checking where appropriate, would become part of the health and safety expectations of such events. That'd be a real win.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Where’s his campaign message, his public statements that having seen all the evidence presented over 15 years in the role that he really, finally, actually stands for something other than centrism?

    In the speech, statement and interviews linked to in the post above, in which he proposes an undeniably radical shift in policy? It is actually the culmination of positions he’s taken over the past six years or so, and makes explicit the principles in the National Drug Policy, which he oversaw.

    I’ve been critical of Dunne plenty for not being as bold as he likes to think he is. Yeah, he always has an eye on what’s politically possible. It just seems odd to come down on him for proposing something really bold.

    Because functionally it’s as if McClay still held the portfolio.

    It really isn’t, but I don't think there's any point arguing any more.. Can we talk about what you think a new Misuse of Drugs Act should look like, what you think is achievable, etc?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think Hilary was referring to O'Connor, not Dunne.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Russell Brown,

    was only a sop to the nutbars in his caucus

    Dunne has a caucus? "Nutbars", such a cute expression.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    was only a sop to the nutbars in his caucus

    Dunne has a caucus? “Nutbars”, such a cute expression.

    Back when he did – and it included the drug warrior Pauline Gardiner. I can't recall exactly what word he used, but it wasn't far off "nutbar".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It just seems odd to come down on him for proposing something really bold.

    That isn't what I'm coming down on him for. But yes, this goes nowhere. I don't know what's possible in drug reform because that comes down entirely to whether it gets political support, how the horse trading after the election goes. I'm feeling pretty cynical this time around. It doesn't feel like an election year. It feels like a fait accompli, a rinse and repeat of the same bullshit, promises, lies and I fully expect all the usual backpedaling afterward. Perhaps it's all this training in statistics, I've come to expect the future to resemble the past.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    pomp and circumstance...

    and his pomp can make him hard to like at times.

    That's harsh, Franz kafka (and Elvis) really rocked a 'pompadour'...
    But then again I have trust issues with men with pony-tails!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7896 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    rocked a 'pompadour'...

    Perhaps what Dunne needs is a nice biopic.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Tadhg Stopford, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    I agree with you completely Katharine. His 'new position' still fails to acknowledge the endo cannabinoid system which all vertebrates share, and which regulates our health at a cellular level, and which can be cheaply optimised by raw, non psychoactive, dietary Cannabis.
    Essentially, I believe, he wants to continues prohibition for his corporate sponsors, but head off the threat from the slightly more into it opportunities party.

    Grey lynn • Since May 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Tadhg Stopford, in reply to Matthew Hooton,

    Attachment

    Hi Matthew, love your work.
    ..,,it depends on how you measure a U turn.
    At a macro level it is exactly the same Prohibitionist policy that is preventing us from reducing our health costs and improving our health outcomes through use of raw, non psycho active, dietary cannabis.
    (The sentences are always too long in this topic)
    I attach one, not terribly relevant, but generally informative piece of research for you. The better stuff is at home on my Mac. From the British Journal of Pharmacology
    T

    Grey lynn • Since May 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Back when he did – and it included the drug warrior Pauline Gardiner. I can't recall exactly what word he used, but it wasn't far off "nutbar".

    At one point he had the theo-cons Paul "God's Little Rally Driver" Adams and Gordon Copeland beside him in Parliament.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5426 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to BenWilson,

    If National get in again, I feel pretty confident that it would become politically expedient, based on everything he has ever done in the role, to expect him to compromise on this.

    It’s unlikely to be a coincidence Dunne is promoting liberalisation in the first election I can remember where a clear majority of the country want cannabis law reform.
    I’ll take it back if he actually puts his neck right on the block for this. But I’m betting he won’t.
    Andrew Little is another idiotic hurdle. It’s like he hates being on the same side as public opinion.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    It’s unlikely to be a coincidence Dunne is promoting liberalisation in the first election I can remember where a clear majority of the country want cannabis law reform.

    Gah, I know that I said I wanted to move past discussion about Dunne, but a year ago he was literally the only NZ MP actively countenancing cannabis law reform. The Greens, of course, renewed and refreshed their position in December. As Ross Bell notes above, it's promising just to have political parties talking about it.

    Andrew Little is another idiotic hurdle. It’s like he hates being on the same side as public opinion.

    I actually heard from someone who gave Little a copy of Chasing the Scream this year – and next time he saw him, was thanked and told by Little that he'd passed the book on to other members of his caucus. So maybe it's just been a matter of not being exposed to the evidence. They're still not going to say boo this year, beyond a pretty vague stance on medical cannabis. But as I was trying to say in the post, it's what happens in the next term that's important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22761 posts Report Reply

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