Explaining joint venture

Waimate district councillor Sandy Mulqueen explains her views on the controversy surrounding her cannabis use.

Dear people of Waimate, I know that many of you have been shocked to learn what I thought was common knowledge: I use cannabis.

The fact is, I have never hidden my stance on cannabis prohibition and have been quite open in admitting that I use cannabis medicinally.

In 1998, I spoke to Helen Clark's father, who was visiting Waimate, about this very thing.

He was far more open-minded (perhaps, because as a farmer he could see the sense of hemp for agriculture) than many people in this town appear to be.

When I first stood for the council, in 2001, I openly campaigned about cannabis/hemp for the benefit of our farming sector.

In 2010, having rashly decided to throw my hat in the ring, I campaigned on the basis of my ability to bring visitors and their economic input to our district.

I had no intention, at that time, to raise the legalisation issue through the council.

As a result of my collapse through nervous exhaustion last year (necessitating a short leave of absence from both of my jobs), I realised for the first time what an enormously detrimental effect cannabis prohibition was having on my life. I spoke to the mayor and the CEO, expressing my wish to ask the people of the Waimate ward to decide, in light of my decision to actively do something to change my circumstances, whether I should remain as their representative.

The mayor said he could not go along with that. So I remained silent, in public in Waimate, anyway.

My only choices were: stop taking what I consider the perfect medicine for me, or live with being a criminal (because that's what the law says), but whatever you do don't talk about it in public. Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.

So, I became someone else (Martha Hill) and campaigned online before the 2011 election for the repeal of cannabis prohibition - unsuccessfully.

No political party who wants to be the government will risk the sort of backlash we have seen in Waimate, over an issue they have successfully avoided for the last 40 years.

I was prepared to leave it there and get on, as best I could, with my life.

I started a new business venture in Christchurch, which I was using as a kind of embassy for Waimate, and reignited a nice romance which had started at a previous March Hare rally.

In mid-March, the rug was pulled from under my Christchurch activities, through circumstances beyond my control.

As the council's district plan review and LTP require a lot of extra work and meetings, I was not altogether unhappy to be back in Waimate full time.

When I saw a way to improve Waimate's fortunes without burdening the ratepayers, I didn't for a moment think that it would bring Waimate into disrepute. This is my home and my work is all about helping Waimate prosper.

A district councillor is not a well-paid position and requires that I (and your other elected representatives) give many hours of unpaid time to this community.

That anyone in this community could think that I don't have all of our best interests at heart saddens me.

The people who have been so vocal in opposition to my submission have seen to it that the Waimate District Council and hence the community will miss out on the substantial one-off windfall it would have provided for our district.

Many, many other reasonable people of Waimate smile and say "good on you for standing up for what you believe".

They are the people I am proud to represent.


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