Where does Labour stand on decriminalising cannabis?

  • 11/08/2016
Where does Labour stand on decriminalising cannabis?

By Jenna Lynch and Chris Holden

Labour Leader Andrew Little can't decide if he wants to hold a referendum on cannabis if elected to Government.

When asked if Labour would decriminalise cannabis, Mr Little told Victoria University's student radio station Salient FM: "We will look at holding a referendum".

But today he's backpedalling.

"I've been very clear, it's not a priority, I've got no commitment to make about it; it's not a priority," he told Newshub.

In the interview with Salient FM on Tuesday he was asked to clarify his stance.

Asked "so you will possibly have a referendum?" he replied: "Yeah, we want to make sure that there's a good information campaign about it and have a referendum about it and let people decide."

When asked how much of a priority it was, Mr Little said it wouldn't be in his first 100 days.

"[It] may not even be in the first term but it would be something I'd be happy to see at some point in our term of government."

However when Newshub read that back to him this afternoon, Mr Little disputed it - even taking the transcript from reporter Lisa Owen.

He read it back and said: "How much of a priority? Not much… not 100 days… not this, that or the other. It simply is not a priority, I have no comment to make about it."

Though he did reiterate they'd consider the referendum.

"We would look at having a referendum if the circumstances arise."

He is sticking by his pledge to legalise medicinal cannabis within 100 days of taking office.

In 2005, police spent 600,000 hours on illicit drug enforcement.

Treasury estimates that legalisation of cannabis would generate $150 million in tax revenue annually for government coffers.

Other benefits would include less pressure on the court system and safer access to cannabis for users.

But widespread legalisation doesn't come without risks.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation estimates one third of cannabis users had driven under the influence and 9 percent of users aged 15-24 reported their use had a harmful effect on their work, studies or employment.