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Barry Soper: Cannabis referendum another dead rat for Greens

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 6:21a.m.
The latest rat served to the Greens in the Beehive Banquet Hall was in the form of the so-called binding referendum on whether we want cannabis legalised.
The latest rat served to the Greens in the Beehive Banquet Hall was in the form of the so-called binding referendum on whether we want cannabis legalised.

COMMENT

Swallowing dead rats - it's becoming a familiar taste for the Greens.

But then again, since becoming Government Labour's also had to get used to unpleasant tastes as it swallows some pretty unpalatable cuisine while Winston Peters sits at the top table dining out on caviar.

The latest rat served to the Greens in the Beehive Banquet Hall was in the form of the so-called binding referendum on whether we want cannabis legalised.

The debate around the Cabinet table was whether they pass legislation this side of the election, as they were planning to do with the capital gains tax, and triggering it after they're voted back into office.

The only difference here is we get to have the say on whether we want dope on the menu, but if we do the final ingredients will be added after the election as the draft legislation goes through the ponderous parliamentary process.

The draft menu will give us a pretty good idea of what to expect and essentially that's what we'll vote on. They'll have to hammer that out over the coming months but the size of the rat that ends up on the Greens' plate will depend on whether they're able to get Peters to the table to convince him their time has come.

He gave a pretty clear steer yesterday that's he's running the restaurant though, saying they've got better things to do over the next 18 months than wasting Parliament's expensive time "seeing whether people are gonna be smoking pot or not which is not our priority".

They'll still have to put the work into drafting the bill for us to consider when we head into the ballot box next year. If we vote 'yes' at least New Zealand First has agreed it'll comply, but what finally ends up in the mix is anybody's guess.

So this isn't the binding referendum the Greens signed up for when they agreed to give the Government the numbers to take office.

The Justice Ministry's told the Beehive that for it to be binding there has to be referendum legislation that sets out the law that'll be automatically enacted in the event of a 'yes' vote.

And Parliament's clerk, the oracle of the process, says for a referendum to be binding legislation needs to be passed through the House with a section stipulating when the law comes into force after the vote's been taken.

The Government argues all parties have to sign up to the legislation because it's not possible to bind a future Parliament considering if there's a change of Government, all bets are off.

So it would seem holding a so-called binding referendum with an election is dodgy, but ignoring the will of the people would leave an even more unpleasant taste in the mouths of voters than even the Greens are now suffering.

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