Labour Leader Andrew Little has suggested during a student radio station interview that a future Labour led government would look to put the legalisation of marijuana to a referendum. He emphasised it wasn’t a priority issue, but something that might be looked at in a second term. This is something he has already put on the agenda and it’s good that he’s not backing away from the idea.
There’s a couple of things that stand out for me in this bit of blue sky thinking. First, I think it’s excellent that Andrew is already looking past next year’s election and planning for the medium term. That kind of confidence is exactly what the left and the country need.
Secondly, I think that if a referendum on medicinal marijuana were held now, the proposition would enjoy far more support than John Key’s wanky flag change idea was ever going to achieve. I reckon the majority of Kiwis already see the obvious value in using the herb to ease suffering.
Decriminalisation for recreational use is probably a step too far for most Kiwis at this point however. I’m not entirely sure why that should be. We’re a pretty liberal country in many ways, despite 30 years of neo liberalism trying to turn us inward looking, selfish and sneering. We also use dope recreationally at one of the highest levels of any first world country.
But there seems to be a irrational puritanical opposition to marijuana reform that I’ve never quite understood.
If it were to be legalised, there would have to be some consequent changes in workplace drug testing regimes. At the moment, most firms use urine samples, which are hopeless at identifying harmful drugs or actual impairment, but do allow employers to fire people for out of work lifestyle choices. To put it another way, urine testing isn’t about making our workplaces safer, it’s about giving bosses power and control over our social lives.
If marijuana use is ever made legal, we will have to legislate to make saliva testing the only legal standard for workplace disciplinary processes. That would have the bonus of making drug testing policies fit for purpose.
Just as an aside, tiredness from overwork is a form of impairment. A large number of Kiwi workers get killed going home from work, driving knackered. But nothing much is ever said about that issue.
I’m not advocating anybody use drugs. Or alcohol for that matter. But I do think there is a fundamental unfairness in one smoking product that we know without doubt kills thousands being legal, while another similar substance which kills no one is banned.
I look forward to a referendum on smoking. But lets put the option of banning tobacco on the ballot too.