Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kate Hawkesby: I can't predict which way the cannabis referendum will go


So tomorrow we get the preliminary results of the referendums.

If we believe the polls, Cannabis legalisation won’t pass and End of Life choice will.

But can we believe the polls?

And which polls? The main ones had support for the Cannabis referendum dropping, and opposition to it rising.

But then the week before we went to vote, Helen Clark and the Drug Foundation produced their own poll showing support for cannabis legalisation was up, it was ahead, that it was close, but that it would indeed get through.

So who do we believe?

Well after the election .. it's anyone's guess. I didn't see Chloe Swarbrick winning Auckland central either. Many didn't. Even she admitted there's value in being under estimated. So have we under estimated support for cannabis legalisation? And has the swing left in not just Auckland Central but across the country, indicated a yes vote may indeed clinch it?

I'll be disappointed if it's a yes vote that wins. I'll be disappointed because of the amount of misinformation that was spread like wildfire, the prominence of the pro-campaigners in mainstream media, the lack of balance. I don’t feel like it was a fair fight.

We heard more often about medicinal - which we weren't even voting on - than we did from those in the community battling the mental health harms it causes. We didn't hear enough from all the drug detectives and police coming forward to say it was a gateway drug, that it decimated lower socio economic communities, that it would stay in the black market and in the hands of gangs no matter how many shops the government allowed to pop up around the country.

We didn’t hear enough from the law enforcers who were coming forward saying people don’t get locked up for marijuana, that very few are punished through the criminal system just because of weed, more often than not there’s a string of other more serious charges attached. People are simply not in jail for smoking a joint.

We didn't hear enough from the mental health workers, pyschs and nurses who were coming forward saying that they already couldn't cope with the backlog of cases needing help due to cannabis harms. That they’d witnessed first hand the slippery slope of this addiction and what it could lead to. The families ravaged by it, the foster parents whose children lamented their bio parents use and obsession with ‘the green tobacco’ as some kids called it.

Many of these stories never made the light of day. There seemed to be an agenda early on to promote cannabis legalisation as a good thing - and anyone railing against it was labelled as some kind of moral crusader backing the wrong horse. I’m not naive enough to believe that cannabis isn’t already all around us, but so is domestic violence, it doesn’t mean we have to normalise it. It’s the normalising of it I’m concerned about, the message that sends our young people.

So although I can’t pick which way tomorrow will go, I am crossing my fingers and toes that New Zealanders saw through the propaganda, and ticked no.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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