Dunne drops synthetics ball

Stuff co.nz 29 April 2014
After months of telling everyone exactly how and why a ban on synthetic cannabis would not work, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has announced a ban on synthetic cannabis.

As recently as Saturday morning, Dunne was on television saying that “bans have been proven not to work, so we’ve got to do something that’s pragmatic, that’s flexible”. By Sunday evening, he had dramatically changed his mind, announcing urgent legislation to pull off the shelves all 41 psychoactive substances currently approved and monitored by the Ministry of Health.

To all appearances, the prompt was an identical policy about to be announced by Labour. Dunne, all righteous indignation, said he’d decided on the move days earlier. Moreover, he tried to fling the blame for any consequences of his announcement back at his critics – if users stockpiled the drugs, he said, it would be Labour’s fault.

The Government has a penchant for playing offence when it is on the defensive. Dunne’s criticism took this tactic to a new height.

The fact is that Labour is an opposition party, unable to introduce new legislation except by private bill. If Dunne thought it right to delay his announcement, he should have done so. Labour might have made political hay, but it could not have gazumped him.