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UF to keep cannabis illegal

Thursday, 9 June 2005

UF to keep cannabis illegal; bring in drugs courts; education programmes for all drug offenders

Cannabis will remain illegal for as long as United Future is part of any government arrangement, leader Peter Dunne said today in announcing a drugs policy that would also deny home detention to drug dealers, introduce specialist drugs courts and require all first time drug offenders to undergo an education or treatment programme.

"From day one, we have taken the position that drugs are a scourge on society and ruin young lives, so we make no apology for taking a hard line," Mr Dunne said, in announcing the policy with deputy leader and health spokeswoman, Judy Turner.

United Future would introduce tougher penalties for all drug dealing, including cannabis, and have harsher sentences for those found guilty of dealing to young people.

"In terms of education and treatment programmes for drug offenders, it will be across the board and not just with jail sentences. The 16-year-old busted with a joint in his pocket will be introduced to the unglamorous realities of drugs and have the chance to face up to what they are really doing to themselves and others, in the same way that the serious dealer will be held accountable," Mrs Turner said.

The home detention sentencing option would also be completely withdrawn for drug-dealing offences. "These are the people that need to be behind bars," she said.

There needed to be both a rehabilitative and punitive aspect to any balanced drugs policy, they said, and United Future was offering this.

"United Future wants to see specialist drugs courts that would allow treatment options to be incorporated into sentencing, combined with further sanction for continued drug abuse or reoffending.

"We also want to remove the last vestiges of someone being under the influence of drugs as some sort of mitigating factor in the sentencing process. It isn't. Drugs are taken by choice and the user is then fully responsible for their actions while under the influence," Mrs Turner said.

"It stopped being an excuse with alcohol some time ago; it must go with drugs too," Mr Dunne said.

ENDS

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