Peter Reynolds writes
With discontent growing in the room, the chair Paul Reid called for a vote to confirm that the process had been clearly explained. About five hands were raised in agreement. A majority of about 94% were against. Reid did nothing about this. He moved on and continued to force through an increasingly complicated series of votes. Some were by a simple majority. Some were by a single transferable vote. Few people understood what was going on.
To begin with the voting had started with a simple majority vote where over 95% had voted against maintaining the status quo in drugs policy. By the end of the voting, Reid had effectively reversed that vote and the end result is a recommendation barely any different from the health diversion policy that is already supposed to have been in place for five years but which the government has failed to legislate for.
Contrary to widespread misreporting in the media, the recommendations which Reid has manipulated through do not decriminalise anything. Even personal possession of small amounts of drugs would remain a criminal offence.
The confusion started when Reid presented a series of options to vote on which had never been seen before. They were certainly not prepared by or with the support of the Assembly. They were ambiguous, contradictory, confusing and clearly designed to split the vote on measures for decriminalisation or legalisation.
Throughout the Assembly’s meetings, there has been dreadful bias in the selection of presentations and evidence. Apart from government departments and government-funded organisations, not a single expert on drugs policy was allowed to give evidence. Despite the strong interest in regulation from the members, out of 200 hours of evidence, just seven minutes was allowed for a presentation on regulation of cannabis. Nothing was permitted on regulation of any other drug.
Neither have any of the 800 submissions to the Assembly been published. A statistical summary of their content was published, showing well over 90% argued for substantial reform. They were supposed to have been published as part of the Assembly process but they have been kept secret and the meetings are now over.
Discontent and protest continued to grow in the room but Reid would have none of it. There were suspicions from the very beginning as to why an establishment figure, closely associated with the drugs policy failures of the past, had been appointed as chair. These appear to be confirmed. It seems that Reid has done as instructed and manipulated a conclusion that maintains the status quo.