Dear Friends,

Life in Level 1 feels good. The Australian rugby team is here in Christchurch. The Summer of Cricket schedule has been announced. Spring is in the air (aside from a wintry setback these past few days). But let’s not take Level 1 for granted—keep up the Contact Tracing app usage!

Last week the Hui Amorangi o Te Waipounamu lost a treasured friend and colleague, the Rev’d Wharekawa Kaa, whose funeral at Te Hepara Pai was on Saturday. I was unable to be present at the tangi and funeral but sent condolences on behalf of the Diocese to Pihopa Richard.

It was very good to preach and preside on Sunday morning at St Luke’s, South Brighton in the Parish of East Christchurch where the congregation is lively and gathering around their Vicar, Archdeacon Katrina Hill, as a loving church family as the recent death of Jeff Hill is mourned.

After a brief lunch in the sun at the Riverside Market (which heightened my anticipation of the Anglican Centre returning to the inner city next year), there was a well organised and joyful AAW Festival Eucharist at 2 pm. Many thanks to President Judith McKenzie and Chaplain Nicky Lee for organising the service, replete with a well-practised choir!

Last night it was a special privilege to preach at the Michaelmas Patronal Mass for St Michael’s and All Angels. On this occasion the well-practised SMAA choir was joined by a small orchestra and, fitting for celebrating the angels of God, we were indeed transported heavenwards by uplifting worship. The whole liturgy, presided over by Fr Chris Orczy, continued to the highest standard in the Anglo-Catholic traditions of the parish.

Dare I say that tomorrow, 1 October is the International Day of Older Persons? In some conversations I find, as you will, that very few people are willing to admit that they are an “Older Person”!

Speaking of 1 October, we are getting very close to the end of the voting season, 17 October, and last week I promised to say a few words about the Cannabis Law Reform referendum.

As I listen to Christian sisters and brothers, this seems to be a more difficult issue to determine re Yay or Nay than the End of Life Choice referendum. Given the widespread use of cannabis in our society, there is an element of “Prohibition” re a Nay vote (which means Yes to continuation of legal prohibition of cannabis). Prohibition, it is often said, does not work. A contrasting argument, of course, is that we do not seem to have any collective will to legalise use of P and other drugs and thus we appear comfortable with Prohibition of these also widely used drugs.

A further complication in the debate over cannabis is the matter of whether “decriminalisation” would be okay and better for the common good of society than “legalisation.” However the former is not an option in the referendum before us. Finally, in respect of difficulty in determining how we might vote, it is often observed that if the law does not change, we will continue as a society to support a form of racism in which users of cannabis who are Māori are much more likely to end up with criminal charges than Pākehā.

Nevertheless, I think there is a case for voting against the proposed bill associated with this referendum question. It promises a highly regulated production and selling process which is at odds with how commerce actually works. That is, I cannot see how the bill will prevent a grey or black market in cannabis, and the latter, we know, will continue to be controlled by criminal gangs. I also oppose a change in the law re cannabis until such time as we offer a coherent “health” approach to all drugs and forms of smoking. It is simply incoherent for our parliament to preside on health grounds over increasing restrictions on tobacco smoking while entertaining the possibility of loosening restrictions on smoking cannabis. And, it is inconsistent to pick out one popular drug, cannabis and determine it will no longer be prohibited while maintaining prohibitions on other drugs such as P. I suggest voting No to this referendum question could focus the minds of our parliamentarians on a better way forward than the particular bill which is the subject of this referendum.

Finally, on this referendum question, let’s remember that our Christian identity is not defined by where we stand on cannabis law reform. It is defined by our belief that in Christ abundant life is to be found. The ultimate answer to questions of drugs and addictive behaviours is found through new life in Christ. Whether cannabis use is legal or not, there is an abundant life in Christ which cannabis does not offer. Our obligation as Christians is to proclaim the good news of life in Christ.

Ngā mihi nui,