Time To Get Real On Cannabis Issue
Time To Get Real On Cannabis Issue, Says United Future
United Future leader, Hon Peter Dunne says it is time to get real on the cannabis issue, and replace all the emotionalism surrounding it with plain common-sense.
Presenting United Future's submission to the Health Committee inquiry into cannabis this afternoon, Mr Dunne told Committee members that as a parent of teenagers, he was worried at the pressure young people faced about drugs.
"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," Mr Dunne said.
Mr Dunne was critical of the mixed messages on the cannabis issue he saw coming from the Government.
"We are very suspicious this present inquiry is no more than a thin political smokescreen to decriminalise cannabis and we deplore the lack of leadership from the Prime Minster and the Minister of Health who, despite promoting strong views against tobacco, are not nearly as outspoken on the use of cannabis. "
"There are mixed signals everywhere - no wonder young people are confused," he said.
Mr Dunne told the Committee he agreed 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," Mr Dunne said.
United Future's submission called for:
* No change in the current legal status of cannabis, but with people under the age of 20 years apprehended for personal for the first time to be given the option of appropriate education and treatment, rather than conviction by the court.
* The introduction of tougher penalties for drug dealing, including cannabis, especially where selling to persons under 20 years is involved.
* A comprehensive education and treatment strategy be introduced relating to all aspects of the use and misuse of drugs in contemporary society.
Mr Dunne said making it clear that cannabis use is unacceptable was an important message to give young people, but it needed to be reinforced through clear policy.
"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, and I hope the select committee will do so too," Mr Dunne said.