Need to get some depth on why the yes vote failed in New Zealand – this is as good as we’ve read yet.

Yet again it’s old vs young

What’s eating Andrew Little? His curt dismissal of the 46% of New Zealanders who voted to legalise cannabis for personal use seems strange.

These voters are, when all is said and done, among the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. Young New Zealanders and Maori New Zealanders represent the bedrock of Labour’s electoral base – the foundation of the foundation, if you will.

Casting aside their votes, and hopes, with such inflexible finality is difficult to reconcile with the fact that these voters constitute the party’s future. The biggest block of the “No” vote, the over-65s, represent a generation of voters which is, quite literally, passing away. This coddling of the old and conservative by the Justice Minister makes even less sense than his contempt for the young and progressive.

A politician of Little’s seniority and experience can usually be relied upon to take a rounded view of a referendum result as close (and likely to get closer when all the Special Votes are counted) as this one. Asking himself, for example, why the numbers supporting cannabis law reform fell-off so sharply over the past three years. As a Labour politician, he might also be expected to query the influence of conservative organisations such as the Maxim Institute and Family First. Investigating, in passing, the influence of far-right American lobby-groups on the strategy and tactics of the “No’ campaign.

Most of all, however, Little might have been expected to factor-in the impact of the raw manipulation of public opinion by the NZ Medical Association. This latter factor is likely to have played a critical role in shaping the referendum result, influencing the choices of Gen-X and Baby-Boom voters over the course of the final, crucial, fortnight of the campaign.

Then, again, it is possible that Little’s own views on cannabis are sufficiently strong to preclude any attempt to interrogate dispassionately and forensically the referendum result. Interviews with Little when he was Leader of the Opposition strongly indicated a generally negative attitude towards cannabis law reform.

For many years, the impact of the drug on the mental health of a small percentage of younger users has raised one of the highest hurdles to legalisation. This is particularly true in the case of parents directly, or indirectly, affected by the problem. The argument that legalisation offers the best hope of bringing effective treatment to younger users adversely affected by cannabis, all-too-often leaves these folk unmoved. The contrast with the ‘No’ campaigners’ emotive “Will nobody think of the children!”, and “First, do no harm”, arguments could hardly be sharper.

A dispassionate analysis of the Cannabis Referendum result would not be complete, however, without referencing the curiously cerebral and, hence, rather pallid, character of the ‘Yes’ Campaign. From the outset, those favouring reform set out to anticipate and, hopefully, overcome the objections of their opponents. It was a touchingly rational approach which, almost by definition, was bound to fail.

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