Gareth Morgan’s call to boost the youth vote by putting cannabis decriminalisation on the political agenda has been blasted by Rotorua MP Todd McClay.
Morgan unveiled the proposal at a Rotorua event to promote his Opportunities Party, where he said their research indicated it was the number one issue that would motivate the young to vote.
“This is ridiculous and further confirms that Mr Morgan will do anything for attention,” McClay said.
“Young people taking drugs and voting should never be linked. Drug abuse is harmful particularly to our young.
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“I have worked hard to remove drugs from our community and will never support any change that increases the risk to Rotorua youth from drugs.”
Waiariki MP and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell was equally unimpressed by Morgan’s call.
“I think there are better ways to encourage young people to get out and vote than by dangling a cannabis carrot in front of them,” he said.
“We can focus on the issues that are important to them so they do not feel ignored but instead feel empowered and encouraged to vote. Cannabis is proven to do harm to those whose brains are still developing and it has had a dire effect on whanau.”
Flavell did leave the door open for future talks on the issue, however.
“The party’s policy is not to legalise cannabis but we are open to a broader discussion about the decriminalisation of the drug.”
Rotorua Labour candidate Ben Sandford also rejected Morgan’s claim cannabis was an issue of importance for young voters.
“I don’t believe the youth vote is primarily motivated by decriminalisation. I think that is a big generalisation that other parties have made the mistake of making in the past,” he said.
“I believe to get the youth vote out we need to engage with youth, inspire them, articulate why our policies will make New Zealand better and to listen to what they have have to say, we need to make sure their voices are heard and their votes count.”
He said Labour Party policy advocated access to medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill and those suffering from chronic pain, but that legalising recreational use “isn’t a priority for Labour”.
Rotorua New Zealand First List MP Fletcher Tabuteau said he would not comment on the issue, while Waiariki Labour candidate Tamati Coffey did not respond to requests for comment.
Rotorua Lakes Councillor Tania Tapsell – who attended the Opportunities Party meeting where Morgan made the call – also failed to respond to requests for comment.