Chlöe Swarbrick blasts National MPs for only backing drug reform in private

Green Party Drug Spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick has blasted National for lack of action on drug reform, claiming some MPs have far different positions in private than in public.  

"I think what you'll find is that the current National Party administration is not particularly keen on constructive dialogue when it comes to drug reform in this country," she told Newshub Nation.

"And it's really unfortunate, given that I have had multiple conversations over around three and a half years now with National MPs who express very different opinions in private."

Swarbrick wouldn't name specific MPs but said there were a 'handful' she had spoken to.

She also confirmed she is investigating a cross-party paper on decriminalising cannabis, which would use a new rule to bypass the traditional lucky dip ballot for pushing a new bill into Parliament. 

"I think it's really important for folks to realise that the only pathway for this meaningfully forward is to have that cross-party consensus," she said.

"When it comes to the cannabis referendum, that was, of course, on a very specific proposed piece of legislation. The cannabis legalization and control bill that was voted down by a margin of 34,000 people. But that's dead in the water and we're not pursuing that anymore. That does not write off the conversations about how we reduce harm as a country."

A poll conducted by market research firm UMR for the Helen Clark Foundation in March found 69 percent of people who voted in the referendum last year either support legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis

This means the poll also found 20 percent who voted 'no' in the referendum may instead support decriminalisation.

Any cross party paper would require 61 non-executive MPs, meaning MPs who are neither Ministers or under-secretaries, to back it before it could be introduced. This means even with the support of Labour, her own caucus and ACT Swarbrick would need at least two National MPs.

"I just call on them to ask them why they're in politics because at the end of the day what is the point if not to pursue the things that you believe in, let alone the evidence that it will reduce harm in this country?"

"They're able to break rank to do things like leaking, I guess. So why not do it for something that they believe in and that'll make this country a better place."

Even if some National MPs broke ranks on the issue, every eligible Labour MP would also need to back it. While Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has said if such a bill was introduced it would be a conscience vote for the Labour caucus, unanimous support is unlikely. 

Health Minister Andrew Little told Newshub Nation's Supplementary Question podcast that a cross party paper would not respect the result of the referendum. 

"I think that once we've made the decision, remember the referendum was a product of an agreement between the Greens and Labor at the beginning of the last parliament to make that decision by referendum, it's pretty tough to then turn to the electorate and say, OK, so you've had your say, we're going to do it this way. I'm not confident that is the right way to go."

Little, who drafted the recreational cannabis legislation which would have been in place had the referendum passed, calls decriminalisation 'a halfway house' saying it doesn't address the harm of drugs sufficiently. 

"Decriminalisation doesn't deal with all the social harms behind cannabis supply, at least most of them in place. So at least some people off the hook and those with positional stuff. But it doesn't doesn't stop the criminal elements controlling the supply and doing this stuff. So I think decriminalisation is a fool's paradise."

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