Helen Kelly’s application to use so-called medical marijuana has been rejected by the Ministry of Health.
The former Council of Trade Unions president is dying of cancer and had sought permission through her doctor to import and use Bloom Farmers Highlighter Sativa and Indica cannabis oil inhalers.
In a letter to Ms Kelly, the Ministry says it’s assessed the application but “considered it to contain insufficient information to enable a decision to be reached”.
It then says that the Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne was briefed and a “Ministerial decision was made to defer the application”.
Russell Brown has an overview of this decision and the flawed process. The point I want to make is that the politics of pot legalisation has baffled me for a while. Lots of people have smoked it, the case for medical marijuana is pretty much a slam dunk. Why are the politics so hard?
The answer, I think, is something experienced politicians know instinctively, which is that when you take a position on an issue and make a statement about it, you actually send two messages to the voters. There’s the first, surface message, which in the case of medical marijuana would be about compassion and scientific evidence and easing suffering and so on, and the meta-message, which is that you’re partly legalising pot and this makes you a pot-head and a hippy etc. And for many, many voters it is the meta-message, operating on a mostly subconscious basis that is the more powerful and influences their perceptions of the politician or the party sending it.
(The Trump primary candidacy in the US is, I think, the epitome of this type of politics. His messages – that he’s going to tell Mexico to build a wall or he’ll kick their ass, and that he’ll yell at China to fix the trade imbalance, or he’ll kick their ass – are absurd, but they all send the meta-message that he’s a tough guy who’ll stand up for America.)
I suspect this explains a lot about the Key government and the issues it chooses. The baffling obsession with building more roads, most of which seem to be expensive pointless white elephants sends a meta-message that this is a government that is doing something: building big, solid, real things. It’s why it will never touch any kind of drug legalisation, and why other progressive causes like abortion are so problematic, and will probably continue to be so even when we have a progressive government.