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Tanczos: and kids will continue to use cannabis...

28 August 2002

Nandor Tanczos
And kids will continue to use cannabis...
Address in reply speech
Delivered 28 August at 9.30pm

Mr Speaker

This House is being treated with contempt. The people of this country are being treated with contempt. What we are seeing is a cynical manipulation of the legislative process to keep the Labour Party in power and to gratify the ego of Peter Dunne.

The speech from the throne confirmed that the government had bought the support of United Future New Zealand with a few concessions. One is that the government will not introduce legislation on cannabis.

Now Helen Clark knows very well that prohibition is putting people at risk. It has resulted in increased use and abuse of cannabis, especially by young people; high levels of prohibition-related violence, including torture and murder; the waste of around 280,000 sworn police hours a year; and in the arrest and prosecution of over 10,000 people a year for cannabis offences - mostly for small scale possession and use.

Peter Dunne has said in the past that the cannabis law is not working and that changes should be made. Yet for political point scoring he has now made it a condition of his support for the government that nothing should be done to improve the law.

This shows a serious ethical deficit.

It also shows contempt for this House and for the people of this country because it pre-empts the Health Select Committee inquiry into cannabis.

Perhaps the reason that Mr Dunne was so concerned to get the government to agree was because he knew that around 75 per cent of the submissions to the inquiry were in favour of some kind of law reform. Some of the most distinguished researchers in this country and internationally, a number of community workers, health professionals and others agreed that the law needs to change.

Because right now cannabis is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, anywhere in New Zealand, to anyone with twenty bucks, regardless of age. Under the laws that Mr Dunne is now so staunchly protecting, nothing is going to change.

So I say that Peter Dunne must now take full responsibility for children continuing to access and use cannabis as a result him blocking the introduction of legislation which would reduce children's access to cannabis and set an age limit of 18 for people possessing or using the drug.

United ran an election campaign based on generating fear and prejudice against the Greens. His vicious and dishonest attacks on us, such as the blatant lies published in their election booklet, again showed a serious lack of personal ethics.

The Green position has been on record for some time. We support introducing an age limit for cannabis of 18 years, to be consistent with tobacco and alcohol. We support use of the police resources saved from doing that, on targeting those people who supply young people, as well as on targeting real crime such as violence and theft. We support allowing adults to grow small amounts for personal use without penalty.

We also support significant new funding for evidence based effective and properly evaluated drug education. We welcome the government's commitment to a drug education strategy and hope it builds on the work of myself and Laila Harre in establishing a process for evaluating what works and what does not work.

I note that one of Mr Dunne's former caucus colleagues, Pauline Gardiner, is active in this area and I hope that this is not a way of dispensing political favours.

Of course Peter Dunne's refusal to allow legislation to be introduced to reduce young people's access to cannabis is similar to his approach to tobacco, alcohol and gambling.

For example he opposed the Smoke Free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill - S.O.P. 148 to extend prohibitions on smoking and tobacco products in the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990 and increase the protections for non-smokers in workplaces, schools and shops.

He voted for the Sale of Liquor Amendment Act No. 2 in 1999 to lower the drinking age.

He opposed health warning labels on alcohol vessels.

He was one of only 10 MP's, the rest of them ACT MP's, to oppose raising the smoking age from 16 years to 18.

Perhaps that is why he is known affectionately around the place as Peter Dunne-hill for his uncritical support for the tobacco industry.

He opposed the Casino Control (Moratorium) Bill in 1997 and didn't even bother to vote on the Casino Control (Moratorium Extension) Bill 2000.

Peter Dunne has consistently supported increased access to cigarettes and booze for young people. Now he is trying to stop us reducing access to cannabis for under 18 year olds.

He must take full responsibility for that.

Ends

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