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National's cannabis petition an absolute disgrace

National's cannabis petition an absolute disgrace - Greens

The Green Party today condemned the National Party's petition calling for Parliament to avoid facing the need to change the cannabis laws as a shameless effort to score cheap political points.

National MP Nick Smith and the School Trustees Association today launched a nationwide petition to try and get the decriminalisation of cannabis off the political agenda.

Green Party co-leader Rod Donald today said the move exposed the National Party as morally bankrupt hypocrites. He said it proved the party was prepared to further endanger the welfare of young people to keep the support of its ultra conservative vote base.

"This move conveniently ignores the fact that the 1998 National-led Health Select Committee unanimously recommended that the laws regarding cannabis be reviewed," said Mr Donald. "The new Government, with Green support, is following that recommendation."

Mr Donald said he was amazed at the willingness of the School Trustees Association to be politicised by National and was sickened at the shameless politics of the National Party.

"The School Trustees Association have handled the cannabis debate about as badly as the National Party. They have repeatedly stressed that cannabis use is rife in our schools, and is increasing, but are not prepared to look at sensible measures to reduce this use," said Mr Donald.

"Neither National or the School Trustees Association have been prepared to look at research which shows that reforming cannabis laws, combined with properly funded education measures, significantly reduces the rates of use - especially among youth.

"Now both of these organisations will have us believe that the best way to reduce use among youth is to stick with a system which has, to date, encouraged young people to use cannabis, and made criminals of them along the way," he said.

Mr Donald said it was stupid of National to say the cannabis issue would be used as a bargaining chip when a conscience vote was being proposed on the issue. "It is disappointing that Wyatt Creech, Maurice Williamson, Clem Simich and others in the National Party who have some commonsense will not be allowed to exercise a free conscience vote on this issue as proposed," he said.

"This petition has nothing to do with the welfare of our young people. It is being promoted by conservative organisations with their heads in the sand. I hope school boards will think twice before circulating this petition. It is buying into National Party propaganda and would be the equivalent of opposing homosexual law reform 20 years ago in the belief that changing the law would lead to gay sex in the playground.

"I urge anyone approached to sign this petition to do some basic research before signing. At least then they will be better informed than the National Party."

Rod Donald MP: 025 507 183, 03 332 5765; Nandor Tanczos MP: 025 246 5235; Press Sec 021 110 1133

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