Greens won't be in charge of drug policy

Julie-Anne Genter in front of the Green's electric billboard.
Julie-Anne Genter in front of the Green's electric billboard. Photo credit: Twitter

The Greens won't be heading up law changes on drugs, despite drug policy long being a focus of the party.

Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter has advocated hard for treating cannabis use as a health issue and increasing access for medical purposes, but despite being named Associate Health Minister, drugs won't be included in her responsibilities.

The responsibility for drug policy will instead rest with the Health Minister David Clark.

Past Governments have given responsibility for drugs to Associate Ministers, often a member of a support party. Recently, that's been Peter Dunne. It's a way of keeping drug policy at arm's length, meaning there's some room for experimenting with new policy without damaging the image of a larger party.

Drug policy has been important to the Greens almost since its inception. One of its most concrete concessions from Labour is a referendum on the personal use of cannabis at or by the 2020 election. 

During the last Parliamentary term, Ms Genter drafted a Member's Bill that would allow the terminally ill and people with a debilitating condition access to cannabis, with the support of a medical practitioner.

Mr Dunne, the former Associate Health Minister in charge of drug policy, says not giving her responsibility for drugs is a step backwards.

"It's the minister's prerogative to allocate the responsibilities, but I would have thought, given Julie Anne's obvious interest in it, she was a logical person for it," Mr Dunne said.

"It's not an area David Clark showed any real interest in previously."

Ms Genter didn't have comment ahead of the Health Minister's announcement of responsibilities - expected to take place Thursday afternoon.

Dr Clark says he's chosen to keep the delegation covered the two health policies in the 100-day plan: mental health and medicinal cannabis. 

"I expect the Green Party to continue to be staunch supporters of medicinal cannabis, despite not holding the drug portfolio," he said in a written statement.

Chlöe Swarbrick is now the Member in charge of the medical cannabis bill, as a Member's Bill can't be the responsibility of a minister. Seeing as medical cannabis is a 100-day Government priority, the bill could become redundant if the Government drafts its own bill instead.