New Zealand’s Rastafarian Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos does not seek the spotlight, but it finds him anyway. Recently one of his parliamentary colleagues tried to have him arrested because he admits to using cannabis.
Craig McNair, 27, is a first-term MP and former youth camp leader who sees himself as a clean cut role model for youth. He belongs to New Zealand First, a minority opposition party noted for its anti-immigration policies.
McNair made a formal complaint to police because Tanczos has admitted smoking cannabis as part of his Rastafarian spiritual practice. Police spent about an hour interviewing the dreadlocked MP, but to date no charges have been laid. When the complaint hit the news, Kiwi cannabis activists threatened to turn themselves in en masse if police arrested Tanczos.
New Zealand police are often heard to complain about being “under-resourced”. In Auckland they take an average of 24 hours to respond to a burglary. A mass surrender of potheads would have paralyzed them, while giving real criminals the opportunity to run rampant.
After making his complaint, McNair turned down several invitations to debate with Tanczos on TV and radio. McNair says he had never tried cannabis nor even been offered it, and he also claims to be abstaining from sex until marriage. He said for Tanczos to admit to cannabis use was “sending an unacceptable message” to young people.
Now in his second term as a Green MP, Tanczos has been a cannabis activist since his student days in the 1980s. He has been a member of NORML NZ since then, and for several years was editor of New Zealand NORML News (CC#24, Pot politics in New Zealand).
Since entering politics he has always been forthright about his cannabis use. He is one of an estimated 450,000 Kiwis who are regular cannabis users, among a population of 3.8 million. As their representative, Tanczos has achieved a high profile for cannabis law reform, although he has also borne the brunt of numerous attacks from prohibitionists.