Involvement in the cannabis trade probably isn't the ideal way to learn how to grow things and sell them to other people. But there's a reason why those who do so need to master some important skills really, really well.

Over on Kiwiblog, DPF has a post decrying Meteria Turei's "claim that Maori growing marijuana are developing entrepreneurial and horticultural skills" and arguing that "the last thing you want is MPs praising drug dealers as entrepreneurs".

On its face, this seems a little odd, given DPF's strong libertarian support for decriminalising cannabis, his concerns about welfare dependency and his passionate support for markets as a means of distribution. After all, if it is fundamentally wrong for the state to tell people they can't grow and smoke marijuana, if producing and distributing it inculcates positive values of work and self-betterment, and if selling it openly not only lets "individuals make their own choices and decisions to meet their aspirations and desires" but also brings it into the white economy where it can be taxed and regulated, exactly what is so wrong with Turei's remarks? Saying "but growing and selling cannabis is illegal!" doesn't really address the issue, which is should it remain illegal ... or should we follow the example of US states like Colorado and Washington as they edge toward permitting a market for the product?

Indeed, one can't help wonder whether DPF's response to these comments is predicated more on the fact it was a Green MP making them than their actual content. A point only strengthened when you consider this quote from a 2011 post:

Wouldn’t it be great I thought to hear Don Brash say something along the lines of “Yes we are going to get rid of the Maori seats, because race based seats are wrong – but we are also going to decriminalise personal use of cannabis, as our current drug laws unfairly penalise young Maori”.

So calling on a wannabe MP to come out and openly support decriminalisation in order to benefit Maori is OK when they are of the ACT persuasion, but should an MP of the Green persuasion say that there are potential benefits for Maori in allowing the open trade of cannabis ... well now, that's just crazy talk!

Meaning that rubbishing Turei's claim that engaging in the cannabis economy has potential benefits for otherwise unemployed Maori is kind of like opposing motorways because it was Hitler who first came up with the idea for Autobahns. And yes, I went with the obvious and totally irrelevant Nazi analogy - but again, DPF has recent form of his own on that score.

Having said all this, however, my reason for posting on this issue wasn't just to land a few cheap blows on a fellow blogger. Rather, it was to indulge my fixation with The Wire. Because Turei's suggestion that involvement in the drug industry can provide good training for broader life skills immediately reminded me of this particular scene from the show's first season.

It involves a young drug dealer, Wallace, who is living in a house with a group of other abandoned children. One of them, Sarah, comes to him for help with a math problem that she has to do for school:

“A bus traveling on Central Avenue begins its route by picking up eight passengers. At the next stop it picks up four more and an additional two at the third stop while discharging one. At the next to last stop, three passengers get off the bus and another two get on. How many passengers are still on the bus when the last stop is reached?”

Despite thinking about it for a while, and taking some obviously random guesses at the answer, she is unable to work the problem out. So Wallace translates the problem into terms she can better understand:

“You working a ground stash. 20 tall pinks. Two fiends come up to you and ask for two each. Another one cops three. Then Bodie hands you off 10 more, but some white guy rolls up in a car, waves you down and pays for eight. How many vials you got left?”

Without missing a beat, Sarah answers correctly: 15. Wallace asks the obvious question: “How the fuck you able to keep the count right, you not able to do the book problem then?”

The answer is simple. “Count be wrong, they’ll f__k you up.”

Probably not exactly what Turei had in mind when she said that involvement in the cannabis trade can be a good training ground for "some real entrepreneurial skills, some real horticulture skills". But probably not too far wrong, either.

Comments (13)

by Graeme Edgeler on April 17, 2013
Graeme Edgeler

I wasn't expecting a column calling for the reintroduction of corporal punishment to school from you, but I guess this just reiterates the good sense of checking one's assumptions.

by Jane Beezle on April 17, 2013
Jane Beezle

Sorry, but both you, Farrar, and Metiria Turei are living in some kind of weird bubble that bears no relation to reality.

The biggest concern problem with Metiria Turei's comment is that marijuana messes up Maori communities; and in political terms, that is why it is very unlikely it will ever be decriminalised.  It doesn't enable young people to "get ahead", it dumbs them down and provincial NZ is suffering as a result.  Go to your local iwi governing authority and suggest that marijuana trafficking helps young Maori to achieve and see what response you get.

by Andrew Geddis on April 17, 2013
Andrew Geddis


I don't see how making dope users criminals is improving the effects that marijuana already has on Maori communities, young people and provincial New Zealand.

by Che Nua on April 18, 2013
Che Nua

Dope entrepreneurism may provide a leg up out of a f_kt social economic situation for a small minority but those who do make it will be standing on the rangatahi heads of their own people; yes regular use of gunja (like alcohol & tobacco etc) does ease the throbbing sore of colonisation & community dysfunction but at the end of the day they are just health & money consuming distractions bad for the kaupapa of Maori development / tino rangatiratanga

by Andrew Geddis on April 18, 2013
Andrew Geddis


Of course the abuse of cannabis by many Maori (as well as many Pakeha) is harmful. Just as the abuse of alcohol and use of tobacco is - a point you note. I guess my claim is little more than that criminalising the use of cannabis does not appear to have lessened the harm caused by its widespread abuse, whilst adding another harm (that of criminal conviction) to those who are using the drug. So even if drugs are bad, that doesn't mean criminalising them is good.

Furthermore, accepting that the "kaupapa of Maori development/tino rangatiratanga" is a desirable thing, why couldn't Maori expertise in growing cannabis for a tightly regulated market in which cannabis abuse is treated as a public health concern be a part of it? After all, there are precedents for it in the production of other drugs.

by Jane Beezle on April 18, 2013
Jane Beezle

But Andrew, the merits of decriminalisation are not mentioned in your blog at all.

You say it is "not too far wrong" that the cannabis trade is a training ground for business.  That is a naive idea that takes no account of the social harm caused by pot.

Decriminalise pot!  Let business flourish in Northland!  Give me a break.  Do you really think that large scale marijuana growers go on to start up legitimate business ventures?  And at what social cost?

The Law Commission proposed some new ways of dealing with marijuana offences and there were some good ideas there.  But even their proposals treat commercial dealing seriously.

by Jane Beezle on April 18, 2013
Jane Beezle

The Wire is a great television programme, but it is a poor basis for making social policy.

For those who want a more sophisticated analysis, you can find it here:

by william blake on April 18, 2013
william blake

There was that wonderful TVNZ infomentary programme about cannabis use in Holland. As a test they had a subject ride his bicycle around some road cones and other simple coordination exercises. Then the subject retired to a cafe for quite a large dose of THC. Then he tried to repeat the experiment but he could not remember where he left his bicycle. Its not called dope for nothing.

by Che Nua on April 18, 2013
Che Nua

Hmmm yeah I do think there is a big difference between people growing cannabis for onselling product to dealers, dependent adults & pre-dependent school kids (like happens down the road where I live), and growing cannabis for onselling product to hemp cloth manufacturers & medicinal purposes.  That said, most of the rural growers are probably just backyard users who have ramped up production for supplementary income to pay the bills as it is almost impossible to get the dole in small town NZ these days

Because they're already making money through an established network, if the Crown were to decriminalise previous convictions I doubt more than 5% of growers would even think about leaving a gap in the dope market by completely transitioning their 'hort skills' for mainstream purposes - that would just be dumb.  I guess it might allow a few to get a passport so they could split the gap for Aussie & have better chance decent paying job

I'm pretty sure we all agree small quantity possession for personal use should not necessarily be a criminal offence but lets see this go hand in hand with proper assist to quit type services as for alcohol, gambling & tobacco smoking

Kul weblinks - you can tell from the premium cost per bottle that Tohu wines are not  targeting the low income group who drink up large almost every night of the week.  Kind of reverse to how some of my relations seem to be smoking greater amounts of dope since the recent rise in tobacco prices

by Andrew Geddis on April 18, 2013
Andrew Geddis

This has all got very serious quite quickly. The original post was a mix of gently poking David Farrar and fondly reminiscing about The Wire - which is a programme that  sheds light on a number of social problems without preaching any simply messages of reform. Which is what makes it great.

So, you are right, Jane, that "the merits of decriminalisation are not mentioned in [my] blog at all", because that really wasn't it's original intention. Sorry not to write what you thought I should have. And no, I don't think many "large scale marijuana growers go on to start up legitimate business ventures" (except to launder their money, of course). There's too much super-profit involved in their illegal enterprises - because the criminal nature of such activity keeps the price high (so to speak). And yes, the Law Commission had some good things to say about how to reform our drug laws, albeit circumscribed by the need to maintain an overall criminal prohibition on cannabis (because that's what the international drug treaties NZ has signed up to require of us). But I'm not sure what extra "social costs" you think decriminalisation would impose. Greater use (and abuse) of the product? Maybe ... but the illegal nature of the product doesn't seem to be deterring Che's relatives from their frequent use (as well as all the other Kiwis who use it on an occasional or regular basis). Furthermore, of course, criminalisation itself imposes social costs. Why do you think the production and distribution of illegal drugs is so violent, as compared with the home brew/craft brewery/beer baron industry? Plus the community and individual costs associated with giving large numbers of people criminal records every year (with the associated narrowed future options that these create). 


While in Germany, I got so drunk that whilst riding a bicycle home (on the separate cycleways that that enlightened country provides), I fell off it three times. A couple of glasses more and I probably would have been unable to get on the saddle. Point being that all drugs have effects ... which is what makes them drugs.


I probably don't disagree with you on that much. My point, I guess, is that cannabis growing and supply is happening. Just like brewing, fermenting and distilling alcohol has happened from our earliest recorded histories. We've managed to transition the latter into a business that produces some pretty good social benefits, while trying in various ways to combat the harm that excessive use produces. It seems silly to me to think that it is impossible to do something similar in relation to cannabis.

by william blake on April 19, 2013
william blake

Andrew, do you mean they provide separate cycleways for drunk volk? Ach the teutonic mind.



by Andrew Geddis on April 19, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Andrew, do you mean they provide separate cycleways for drunk volk?

They provide the separate cycleways. New Zealand provided the drunks. Each place has its different talents.

by KJT on June 26, 2016

Or, you can sell an even more harmful drug, make millions, donate to National, become SIR Douglas Myers!

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