Not if it involves the rights of vulnerable minorities, however. No way would I ever support a racist Maori seat erasure referendum akin to the one favoured by Hobsons Pledge. Civil liberties and human rights concerns should never be put to referenda if it involves their abridgement or contraction due to circumstantial anxieties or moral panics. The ordeal faced by LGBT Australians over marriage equality has convinced me of that.
Even so, overseas referendum results on euthanasia reform don't tend to be one way- as I've noted, there tend to be some pro-reform outcomes- enough for some religious social conservatives to get extremely cold feet when it comes to ones that involve that particular social issue. And row incessantly with those of their ilk who blindly back binding referenda for that reason.
But nevertheless, the points raised, Graeme, are also salient when it comes to binding referenda- their expense, the possibility of manipulation by predatory corporate elements, and more important priorities for government expenditure when it comes to concrete social spending after a period of relative neglect. I am not opposed to legislative reform in the context of medicinal and recreational cannabis, but I would prefer that it is achieved through the process of parliamentary muster, select committee deliberation and then passage. For that matter, I know many people within the disabled community who view euthanasia and assisted suicide as little more than neoliberal eugenics and oppose such referenda on the basis of libertarian outcomes in Oregon, Washington state, Zurich and Colorado when it comes to that issue. I think binding referenda are appropriate for questions like electoral reform and other constitutional issues (but I prefer a written constitution to referenda precisely because it makes a more nuanced and deliberative contribution to public policy debates possible).
Excellent article, Graham. While I was working for Gaynz.Com as their political correspondent, the issue of referenda came up a great deal, given the large number of anti-LGBT referenda held against marriage equality at the state level during the Noughties in the United States. Given that I do not believe that human rights and civil liberties should be subjected to populist grandstanding and infringement by tyrannical majoritarianism, I realised that I opposed binding citizens referenda for exactly that reason. And I was fairly consistent about it, much to the displeasure of some on the New Zealand Left who tried to recuperate it for progressive objectives, for which it was not fit for purpose.
I have been pleasantly surprised about the second thoughts from elements of the conservative Christian community in New Zealand over this issue, for that matter. While Family First and the Conservative Party appear addicted to it and ignorant or unaware of critical voices, opponents of euthanasia decriminalisation are quite aware that in a number of cases, binding referenda have been used for that purpose, and I gather antidrug conservatives are similarly anxious about the prospect of recreational cannabis decriminalisation through the same route.
Family First, the Conservative Party and other referenda boosters appear to have nothing more than nihilist contempt for representative, deliberative democratic government. Binding referenda are, as Graeme says, a waste of money and there are other, far graver public policy priorities for urgent expenditure, given the last decade of neoliberal neglect and retrenchment of social spending. They do not address the fine detail of public policy, as Russell states above, and they are prone to exploitation by predatory spinmeister public relations and advertising companies.
I'm surprised at New Zealand First on this issue, too. Surely, given its core elderly constituency, one would have thought one of their policy priorities would be increased health spending for that voter base? I'd rather spend money on that than potty populist plebiscites.
Those who are medical practitioners or scientists might also want to mobilise professional associations to back reform. As a rule, social and legislative reform is the result of a simple equation: Mass movement + evidence-based proof of desired efficacy to substantiate claims = successful legislative reform. LGBT communities did this with our legislative reform efforts, so it's time to apply those lessons elsewhere within the political landscape.
Recreational user groups might want to take a backseat for the duration of this campaign. Moreover, there will need to be competitor monitoring- that means disciplined and constant surveillance of opponent websites and deconstruction of their claims. This is what Family First is up to- a Say No to Dope anti-reform website that tries to map support for medicinal cannabis onto support for recreational cannabis: http://www.saynotodope.org.nz
Have to say I'm disappointed. Here's what I'd like to see:
(1) Removal of medicinal cannabis use altogether from Schedule C of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981
(2) Analgesic user allowance for those in chronic pain
(3) "Green Card" ID system for medicinal cannabis users- but can be revoked if there is deliberate distribution to non-medical users (an interim measure, designed to placate the anti-recreational interest groups)
(4) A broad set of medical conditions that are eligible for medicinal cannabis administration
(5) Personal growth and use eligibility for groups other than the terminally ill.
I would suggest that if you agree with the above, someone should set up a submission template to deal with potentially widened access eligibility and scope for medicinal use in this context. Preferably with evidential accompaniement of efficacy in this context and legislative and regulatory examples from overseas.
Surely Temuera Morrison when you think about it. He did play Boba Fett's dad in the second Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones.
Well said, namesake. At some point, Parliament needs to repeal the wretched Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993, but for tactical reasons, it will have to be after Winston pops his clogs. Although a surprising number of godbots have suddenly realised its risks, given that Winston is now talking about a euthanasia referendum too...
It just makes more strategic sense to me to fence medicinal cannabis off and then deal with recreational cannabis as a seperate issue. That appears to be what happened in the case of US state decriminalisation of first medicinal and then recreational cannabis. Note that I am not necessarily opposed to the latter, but a seperate recreational cannabis campaign could also focus attention on the lack of evidential backing for the categories within the current Misuse of Drugs Act and raise important questions about the current regulatory regime of controlled substances within it.