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Inquiry Into Health Strategies And Cannabis Use

Health Committee

Inquiry into the public health strategies related to cannabis use and the most appropriate legal status

An all-of-Government approach is essential to ensure quality, accurate health messages about cannabis use, a Health Committee report has found.

The committee recently completed an inquiry into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use of and harm associated with cannabis and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis. This inquiry was initiated by the Health Committee of the 46th Parliament, but lapsed at the end of that parliamentary session. The current Health Committee decided to complete the work of the previous committee. The committee’s report on the inquiry was presented to the House today.

The focus of the inquiry was on the public health impact of cannabis use. The committee has made several recommendations about the most appropriate public health strategies to deal with this issue, including for ongoing funding of community action programmes, and the integration of drug and alcohol education into the health curriculum.

The committee was concerned that young people were not being delivered appropriate messages that they should not use cannabis, particularly given the severe effects it may have on their health. The committee recommended the Government develop policy to reverse the trend for increasing consumption of cannabis by younger people.

The committee noted a need for greater research in a number of areas. It recommends further research into the relationship between cannabis use and both suicide and road accidents. The committee would also like to see some way of measuring impairment by cannabis developed.

The committee was not able to reach agreement about an appropriate legal status for cannabis or on all of the recommendations in the report. The report highlights options for the legal status of cannabis. The committee suggests that the Justice and Electoral Committee could further consider these options. However, it has recommended that the Government pursue the possibility of supporting the prescription of clinically tested cannabis products for medicinal purposes. It has also recommended that the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs give a high priority to its reconsideration of the classification of cannabis.

Policing and diversion were also considered by the committee, which has recommended greater use of diversion for minor cannabis offences. The committee suggests that minor offenders should be diverted to compulsory health assessment for first possession and use offences, rather than receiving a criminal conviction.

Copies of the committee’s report can be purchased from Bennetts Government Bookshops, or viewed at http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/cgi-bin/select-reports

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