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High Support for Marijuana Law Reform

Recently Parliament has fallen under a haze of pot-related allegations with press secretaries in two seperate incidents accused of spinning doctoring while under the influence. While only one MP admits being a current user, two Television news polls in Parliament yesterday revealed considerable support for a move to softer laws on the drug.

Both the TVNZ and TV3 straw polls of MPs which aired last night showed a majority support for decriminalisation of cannabis, the most likely option Parliament would vote once it reviews of marijuana laws.

The TVNZ poll questioned 98 of the 120 MPs and found 42 were in favour of decriminalising the drug, with 35 against and 21 unsure or unwilling to comment.

Meanwhile the corresponding TV3 news survey found MPs were more closely split. Of 110 MPs polled 40 were in support of decriminalisation while 39 were against and 31 were undecided.

The high undecided counts in both polls mean a vote for change is by no means certain.

Nevertheless, there is high powered support for the changes in Parliament. Both Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King say they support decriminalization with Miss Clark advocating a move towards "spot" fines for the drug.

Conservatives publicly for include National's Brian Neeson and ex-police minister Clem Simich. In the minor parties high profile Green candidate Nandor Tanzcos has said repeatedly he favours total legalisation of the drug.

In the anti-camp senior members of National have previously spoken out against the changes. Maori MPs, whose constituents have high rates of drug and alcohol abuse are also seen as less likely to advocate change.

At election time last year National Leader Jenny Shipley and former Health Minister Roger Sowry made clear they were strongly against marijuana law reform. Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said yesterday decriminalisation of marijuana would mean "social genocide" for his people.

However exactly when the Government will review marijuana laws remains something of a moot point.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Annette King says the date for the law review has not yet been set which could mean the it occurs any time within Labour's parliamentary term. Other reports have suggested the review may take place this year.

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