So, Don Brash has come out in favour of the decriminalisation of cannabis. I haven’t had time to post about this earlier, so by now most things that can be said about it have been said by others. But I’ll add my two cents anyway.
Brash apparently didn’t coordinate his musing on the subject with the rest of the party, which has been the source of some mirth. It’s a bizarre situation. As Eric Crampton and Peter Cresswell have pointed out, ACT’s guiding principles state that “individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent rights and responsibilities” and “the proper purpose of government is to protect such rights and not to assume such responsibilities”. What could be more in line with those principles than ceasing and desisting from criminalising individuals for imbibing a substance that hurts no-one but themselves. But the party’s ticket back into Parliament, and the party’s president evidently fell over themselves in their rush to contradict their leader.
Lindsay Mitchell and Eric Crampton have pointed out that the informal polls show a high level of support for decriminalisation. And most of what I’ve been reading over the last couple of days indicates a high level of support amongst the blogging community.
So, the leader of ACT “the Liberal Party”, announces that he thinks he might endorse a policy which recognises that individuals are the owners of their own lives, and which probably has the potential to win broad support at a time when they’re polling below the margin of error, and is probably good policy. And the party president doesn’t even pause for breath before announcing that it’ll never be party policy.
All of this makes ACT look totally amateurish. But it doesn’t seem to have dented their stocks on iPredict, which is interesting. If anything they’re trading higher than they were beforehand.
Certainly it’s gotten ACT and Brash a lot more press than they have been getting, and perhaps when you’re polling at 1% or 2% there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
On the other hand, it has been pointed out that the minor party votes on iPredict can be quite cheaply manipulated (I think it was Eric Crampton who did the math on that, but I can’t find the post) and so the fact that iPredict has ACT on 5% may mean almost nothing. And others (including Eric) are predicting that this latest debacle may well spell doom for ACT. It would be a shame if this episode ended up taking this issue of the table for another decade or more. It’s an idea that deserves serious debate.