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Tanczos agrees with Harré instant fines no answer

24 January 2000

Tanczos agrees with Harré - instant cannabis fines not the answer

Green MP Nandor Tanczos today said he was delighted to hear the Minister of Youth Affairs saying that replacing current cannabis laws with instant spot fines was not the answer.

"As the momentum builds towards cannabis law reform in New Zealand it is important that we examine each of the policy options on their merits instead of what seems the most politically expedient," said Mr Tanczos.

"I am really pleased that the Minister has voiced her concern over the instant fines system because, while it might sound good in theory, in practice this system has been a dismal failure."

South Australia introduced a system of spot fines for minor cannabis offences in 1987. However under this scheme the rates of cannabis use increased and the number of reported cannabis offences doubled. Only around half of all those people issued with spot fines actually paid the fine, mainly because the fined person could not afford to pay.

The end result of this system has been a 90 per cent success rate for prosecutions for non payment of fines, or 37,500 otherwise avoidable convictions for non payment of fines between 1992 - 1996.

"Under the instant fines system young, poor people are still negatively effected by the law and the law is still doing far more damage to otherwise ordinary people than their use of cannabis ever would," said Mr Tanczos.

"I am particularly concerned about the instant fines option because the evidence is that the same people continue to get busted for what simply should not be a crime. The issue must be what system will actually achieve our goals rather than what is the most politically expedient," he said.

"Again I am grateful to the Minister of Youth Affairs for advancing the debate on the facts."

Nandor Tanczos is currently in South Africa. He can be contacted on 0027 82 258 6926 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 440 090

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