Chlöe Swarbrick responds to grandfather desperate to help cannabis-hooked grandson

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is urging New Zealanders to embrace "cannabis legalisation and control" after a grandfather wrote to her desperate to help his cannabis-hooked grandson.

Swarbrick, the Green Party's spokesperson for drug law reform, posted a copy of the letter she received from the unnamed grandfather, as well as the response she gave him, on Twitter. 

The grandfather told Swarbrick he has a 22-year-old grandson whose life is "totally off the rails" because of cannabis use and that he's now living with him because his "mother can't handle him". 

"He's unable to live in an unsupervised environment... My wife and I are in our seventies and it's getting close to the point that we can't handle him either," the grandfather said. 

"You're a fan of what caused his problems. Can he come and live with you?"

Swarbrick, 25, is an outspoken supporter of legalising and regulating cannabis in New Zealand. The country will vote at the next election whether or not to legalise it nationally. 

"I'm sorry to hear about your grandson, it sounds like he and your family have gone through the absolute wringer," Swarbrick replied to the grandfather. "I understand you're angry at me for talking openly about the drug that has devastated your family.

"In Parliament, I spoke about my flatmate who took his life after experimenting with cannabis use and escalating to harder stuff, always looking for a way out to mask deep trauma and hurt."

The Green MP told the grandfather his grandson was able to access cannabis through the black market, explaining how that's what she wants to change by legalising and regulating the product. 

"The people who sold this to them evidently don't care about their wellbeing, about whether they were of age, about the quality of the stuff they were getting or the potency of it.

"I'm sure you would agree that we never solve a problem by pretending it doesn't exist. Under the status quo, I lost my flatmate, and your grandson has been exposed to a drug that has caused your family harm."

Swarbrick said different countries have tried to continue increasing criminal penalties on underground substances to beat them out of existence, but said it has "had the opposite effect". 

"As your grandson's story shows, he's had easy access, has a criminal record, your family has suffered, and he's now experiencing behavioural problems."

The 25-year-old, who has offered to meet the grandfather's family, told him "evidence points us to a different approach than the one which has landed this problem on your doorstep". 

Swarbrick insisted she has "never been a fan of any drug" and that she has "seen the devastation" that illicit substances can bring about. 

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Facebook

"I've seen that our social and political responses have so far only served to make these problems worse... The harms you've seen have happened and will continue happening under the way things are. 

"I believe people like your grandson, you and your family deserve better. That's why I'm an advocate for cannabis legalisation and control."

The Opposition's drug law reform spokesperson Paula Bennett has expressed concern about legalising cannabis in New Zealand. 

The National Party's deputy leader says there needs to be more time for public discussion and that New Zealand should explore decriminalisation, like in the Netherlands, instead of legalisation.  

Justice Minister Andrew Little revealed last month the proposed recreational cannabis possession, purchase limits and supply details Kiwis will be voting on whether to legalise.  

Legalisation of the product will include regulations such as a purchasing age of 20 and above, a ban on marketing and advertising, as well as home-growing options. 

You can read about what the proposed cannabis law includes here