Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Peter Dunne Letter to Editors and Parents On Drugs


28 August 2000

An Open Letter to Editors and Parents:

As a parent of teenagers, I worry often at the pressure young people face today about drugs. Like you, when I hear the stories, from the teenagers themselves and also their parents, about their experiences and fears, I become more concerned. Good, decent kids from good, decent families are having their lives turned upside down by cannabis, which, it seems, is now almost more available than alcohol.

And when I see the campaigns being mounted by self-proclaimed icons of the young like Nandor Tanczos MP and his colleagues to decriminalise the use of cannabis, on the grounds it is no more harmful than alcohol, I become genuinely fearful for the future. It seems that the decriminalisation argument is being won almost by default. After all, the Government is presently reviewing the cannabis laws and the Minister of Health, despite promoting strong views against tobacco, is not nearly as outspoken on the use of cannabis. There are mixed signals everywhere. No wonder young people are confused.

It is time to take a stand, and replace the emotional debate about cannabis with some plain common sense.

It is too easy to say that cannabis is a "soft" drug, no worse than alcohol and that its users are harming no one but themselves, but none of these arguments really stack up. There are too many young people suffering today because of regular and prolonged cannabis use, and moving on to other, more sinister forms of drug abuse. The argument that cannabis is no more harmful than alcohol is also quite false because alcohol and cannabis are different substances with different effects on people. Both are potentially risky and dangerous, and we should be aiming to minimise - not equalise - the risks associated with both.

But before we go any further, surely we should be trying to find out how widespread the use of cannabis is? Yet we do not test in the workplace, school grounds, the roadside, or elsewhere for cannabis use. Maybe it is time we did so. The best thing we can do for our children is to reduce the risks they face, and a large part of doing that must be finding out who the users are and how they are affected.

One thing I do agree on with those who promote decriminalisation is that the current law is not working. But decriminalisation will not work either. If the law is not working, you do not make it work by getting rid of it. Rather, you make the changes needed to make things work.

With cannabis, we need a comprehensive approach based on thorough testing to find out who is using it and in what circumstances. At the same time, we should be looking at depenalisation where people caught with small amounts of cannabis for personal use would be given a small fine (say $100) and referred to a treatment centre for assessment and counselling. If they refused that option, then they would be put before the Court and processed in the normal way. People with larger amounts of cannabis would be treated as drug dealers in the same way other drug dealers are.

We all know our kids are our best assets, but we are often not too good at backing them up. I fear that at present we are leaving our kids unsupported and uncertain about cannabis, and we have to change that. Making it clear that cannabis use is unacceptable is an important message we must give our young people, but we have to go one step further and reinforce that through positive steps like those I have outlined.

We owe it to our children to stand up for their future. Now is the time for all of us who share that commitment to come together to make sensible decisions on the cannabis issue, because on issues like this we only have one chance to get it right.

As a parent and a politician, I stand four square for our children. I know you do too, and I therefore hope you will join me on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Peter Dunne MP, Leader, United New Zealand


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

New Reports: Flood Risk From Rain And Sea Under Climate Change

One report looks at what would happen when rivers are flooded by heavy rain and storms, while the other examines flooding exposure in coastal and harbour areas and how that might change with sea-level rise.

Their findings show that across the country almost 700,000 people and 411,516 buildings worth $135 billion are presently exposed to river flooding in the event of extreme weather events...

There is near certainty that the sea will rise 20-30 cm by 2040. By the end of the century, depending on whether global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, it could rise by between 0.5 to 1.1 m, which could add an additional 116,000 people exposed to extreme coastal storm flooding. More>>

ALSO:

 
 

Gordon Campbell: On The Commerce Commission Fuel Report

The interim Commerce Commission report on the fuel industry will do nothing to endear the major oil companies to the New Zealand public... More>>

ALSO:

Emergency Govt Bill: Overriding Local Licensing For The Rugby

“It’s pretty clear some clubs are having difficulty persuading their district licensing committees to grant a special licence to extend their hours for this obviously special event, and so it makes sense for Parliament to allow clubs to meet a community desire." More>>

ALSO:

Leaving Contract Early: KiwiBuild Programme Losing Another Top Boss

Ms O'Sullivan began a six-month contract as head of KiwiBuild Commercial in February, but the Housing Ministry has confirmed she has resigned and will depart a month early to take up a new job. More>>

ALSO:

Proposed National Policy Statement: Helping Our Cities Grow Up And Out

“We need a new approach to planning that allows our cities to grow up, especially in city centres and around transport connections. We also have to allow cities to expand in a way that protects our special heritage areas, the natural environment and highly productive land." More>>

ALSO:

Ombudsman's Report: Ngāpuhi Elder 'Shocked' By Conditions At Ngawha Prison

A prominent Ngāpuhi elder is shocked to find inmates at Ngawha Prison are denied water and forced to relieve themselves in the exercise yard... Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released a report highly critical of conditions at the Northland prison. More>>

ALSO:

Promises: Independent Election Policy Costing Unit A Step Closer

The creation of an entity to provide political parties with independent and non-partisan policy costings is a step closer today, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Associate Finance Minister James Shaw. More>>

ALSO:

School's In: Primary And Intermediate Principals Accept New Offer

Primary and intermediate school principals have voted to accept a new settlement from the Ministry of Education, which includes entrenched pay parity with secondary principals. More>>

ALSO:

IPCA On 'Rawshark' Investigation: Multiple Police Failings In Hager Searches Confirmed

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the Police's unlawful search of Nicky Hager's property in October 2014 resulted from an unwitting neglect of duty and did not amount to misconduct by any individual officer... More>>

ALSO:

Broadcasting Standards: Decisions On Coverage Of Mosque Attacks

The Authority upheld one of these complaints, finding that the use of extensive excerpts from the alleged attacker’s livestream video on Sky News New Zealand had the potential to cause significant distress to audiences in New Zealand, and particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels