Cannabis referendum up in smoke?

Cannabis referendum up in smoke?

Labour is rubbishing claims it is backing a referendum on decriminalising cannabis, following a statement from the Cannabis Party.

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford says the vibe he'd got from Labour leader Andrew Little was that he "sounded positive" the idea of a referendum was being progressed by Labour.

Mr Crawford says he'd had several informal meetings with Mr Little including running into him in public places and during his recent trips to Oamaru and Dunedin.

"We came up with the idea to start with at the Cannabis Party AGM, and we looked into the idea of a citizens-initiated referendum, but realised it would require a lot of signatures and wouldn't be binding, so we turned our attention to a Parliamentary-created referendum which can be binding. We passed that on to Labour," he said.

He believes the issue of decriminalisation and medical cannabis would bring a lot of "disenfranchised voters" back to Labour.

"He said he is in favour of the idea, but I'm unsure about whether he's got the backing of his colleagues, certainly some of the meetings we've had with other Labour MPs they've been a bit reluctant so there seems to be a bit of a delay getting it to the ballot."

The Cannabis Party was encouraging the party and also providing them with information on how the decriminalisation law was working in the US state of Colorado.

Mr Little has been contacted for comment on the claim, but a spokesperson said it was "absolute rubbish".

The idea of a referendum has been pushed by former CTU head and now by medical cannabis campaigner Helen Kelly who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She has admitted to taking cannabis oil to relieve her pain, and is fighting for medical marijuana to be made legal.

She's called for a referendum on the issue at the next election.

Mr Crawford says that would lessen the cost of holding such a referendum compared to it being outside an election year.

Labour has said it is open to decriminalising medical cannabis, with MP Damien O'Connor drafting a Bill which would make it easier for patients to access the products.

Currently, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has the authority to approve medical cannabis for patients.

But Labour's health spokeswoman and deputy leader Annette King says there is no "direct work" being done on decriminalisation of cannabis.

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