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Emma Espiner & Angus Lindsay
Our kaupapa centres on creating a space for the voices in our communities that are often left unheard. This especially includes those voices most affected by policy and legislative change. We believe Māori should be part of any legislative reform conversation, particularly one that may unintentionally harm Māori communities.
This issue contains true accounts of everyday New Zealanders and their experiences with drugs and alcohol. We explore the ideas that drug use does not always equate to abuse, and conversely, that often those who may not be labelled as ‘addicts’ may also present problematic use patterns. We have attempted to bring to life some of the more silent and hard-to-reach groups here in Aotearoa with the aim to create awareness and provide a space to share their experiences – both good or bad – with drugs and alcohol.
As young people growing up in distinct cultural contexts within New Zealand, Emma and I share the common thread of wanting to create a better future for our society. We have both seen and experienced the effects of problematic drug use within our communities. At the same time, we also understand that the conversation around drug use is more nuanced than what has traditionally came before us. We value sensible, evidenced-based legislation that consults a broad range of voices within the wider community.
As the victors of the 2017 General Election, the Labour-New Zealand First-Green coalition has a duty to take action and acknowledge the impact that legislative change can have on the already vulnerable. The coalition has already taken action on priority areas such as housing, health, education, mental health and the environment – one of these priority areas is the vote on medicinal cannabis.
The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which aims at improving access to medicinal cannabis for terminally ill patients, passed its first reading in January. The next day, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis Bill was defeated in a conscience vote 73 to 47. Her Bill sought to allow approved chronic pain sufferers to use, possess and grow cannabis as well as nominate a person to grow cannabis for them.
Why the distinction between need and use? Is New Zealand ready for this discussion? Are we mature enough as a society to examine the scientific evidence, rationalise the pros and the cons, and communicate with a diverse set of groups?
We are in a privileged position to be able to look to other nations such as Canada and the US who have already taken these tense political steps. We should examine their stories to help us make these decisions and how they may or may not work for New Zealand.
This issue, we’re delighted two co-editors set the direction of the magazine. Thanks to Emma Espiner, National Communications Lead, Hāpai te Hauora and Angus Lindsay, VUW criminology student and JustSpeak volunteer.