'It's like having a cocktail': Sean Plunket, Chlöe Swarbrick find common ground on weed

Radio host Sean Plunket - known for his outspoken views on "woke left" - has found common ground with a Green MP over her advocacy for cannabis law reform. 

Plunket, host of Magic Talk radio's afternoon segment, invited MP Chlöe Swarbrick to discuss draft legislation announced this week outlining the potential rules if New Zealanders vote to legalise recreational cannabis. 

Swarbrick, a 25-year-old MP who has led the campaign against prohibition, quickly found common ground with Plunket during the interview, who told her he's long been an advocate for legalisation of weed. 

"I've long said I smoked cannabis from a young age, I've been exposed to it, I'm for cannabis law reform because we can reduce harm, and prohibition isn't working," the radio host said. 

He later added, "It is literally like having a cocktail at home."

Plunket said he's been trying to gage from his listeners whether they've learnt anything new about cannabis during debates over the last few months or if they've "been looking for stuff that reinforces their view". 

Swarbrick told him that's "kind of the human condition", adding that she's concerned the debate around cannabis law reform has been "along polarised lines". 

"I don't think that's constructive in terms of the issue itself which is why I will be taking an intentional step back next year on it." 

Swarbrick explained why she's stepping back: "I saw my role as delivering this legislation which I genuinely believe is the best possible framework to reduce harm... It's evidence-based and it makes a whole lot of sense."

The 25-year-old - who once ran for the Auckland mayoralty - is pushing back against some concerns that legalising cannabis would send the wrong message to young people. 

"The message this sends is that you shouldn't be using this substance because it can be harmful and should only be used if you're over 20 and can make an informed decision."

The draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill proposes a minimum purchase age of 20, a ban on marketing and advertising cannabis products, and limiting the sale of recreational cannabis to physical stores.

It also says anyone aged 20 years or older may grow up to two cannabis plants. If two people aged 20 or older are a part of the same household, the property can have up to four plants.

Paula Bennett, deputy leader of the National Party, displayed what she claimed was a 14-gram bag of dried oregano in Parliament this week to illustrate how much weed people would be able to buy per day  arguing the limit is too high.  

She has also raised concerns about areas in the legislation that are still yet to be finalised, such as whether people would be able to grow cannabis plants in a rental property.  

Columnist Damien Grant, who joined the conversation with Plunket and Swarbrick, said Bennett's stunt was "bloody lazy politics" and accused National of using the debate over cannabis as "an opportunity to win votes". 

He said his concern about the referendum is that it could end up like the 2015-2016 flag referendum held under former Prime Minister Sir John Key, where he failed to convince the country to vote for a different flag. 

Grant suggested some people voted against the new flag option because they didn't like Sir John, and that the same thing could happen with cannabis if people don't like Swarbrick and the Greens. 

Swarbrick agreed and said that's why she will take a step back from campaigning in 2020. 

Plunket and Swarbrick seemed to find a genuine common understanding on the subject of cannabis law reform. But the radio host did question the Green MP about whether the referendum will be as binding as people might think. 

His question related to the fact that the two issues New Zealanders will be voting on at the 2020 election - euthanasia and cannabis - are bound to separate pieces of legislation. 

ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill - which would legalise assisted dying in some circumstances - has passed through Parliament and been agreed upon

It has a commencement clause that says it will come into effect with a positive majority vote of New Zealanders, making it "self-executing". 

The cannabis legislation is different in that it requires good faith on behalf of all political parties to honour the result of the vote. For example, if National won the election in 2020, they could potentially reject the vote results altogether. 

But Swarbrick said she doubts that would happen. 

"It's going to be very difficult if there is a positive majority vote for New Zealanders, if the next iteration of government were to say 'we're not going to pay attention to that will'."

You can read about the draft cannabis legislation here