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Nandor's Bill solution to prohibition crisis

19 July 2005

Nandor's Bill is mainstream solution to prohibition crisis

"The new private member's bill I am launching today aims to remove the central injustice of cannabis prohibition while meeting many people's concerns that its use should be discouraged," Green MP Nandor Tanczos says.

Nandor's Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Infringement) Amendment Bill introduces instant fines for possession of small amounts of cannabis, an improved version of the decriminalisation model used in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. An analogy under current law to the proposed approach is speeding tickets.

"There is widespread agreement across the political divide and throughout the community about the problems of prohibition," Nandor says.

"I have spoken to people all over New Zealand about their concerns and I have listened to them. This Bill is an attempt to find a workable solution that addresses the concerns of most people.

"Most New Zealanders recognise that a criminal record for the personal use of cannabis is a disproportionate punishment, but many still want to retain a message that cannabis use is to be discouraged, particularly by young people. This bill meets both of those objectives.

"Some politicians want to polarise the debate for their own political ends. The Greens are looking for consensus around points of agreement. This is mainstream stuff.

"While it is not assured that the Bill will be drawn from this week's ballot, this very moderate step will be on the table in any post-election negotiations between the Greens and Labour.

"This Bill is also the first time that provisions have been introduced that are specifically targeted at keeping cannabis away from kids. People under 18 caught with small amounts of cannabis will, in addition to the other sanctions, be required to participate in an approved drug education programme. And adults using cannabis within 100 metres of a place predominantly used by young people will attract a more significant fine.

"Today I issue a challenge to other political parties - support this Bill or make it clear how they will resolve the prohibition crisis. Some politicians have explicitly said that simply being an idea from the Greens is a good enough reason to oppose it. They should grow up; they're supposed to be legislators charged with doing what's best for all New Zealanders," Nandor says.

Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley welcomes Nandor's bill as a positive move: "By taking an approach like this we can focus on cannabis as a health issue rather than as a crime, while still discouraging young people from using it," she says.



The Bill creates a new approach to cannabis. Adults who use cannabis will get an instant fine rather than the disproportionate punishment of criminal conviction. New provisions will strengthen protections for under-18s.

Key Features:

* People over 18 with up to 28g of cannabis or 5g of cannabis preparation will get a $100 instant fine, rather than a criminal record.

* Adults growing up to five small plants at home will get a $100 instant fine, rather than a criminal record, unless there is evidence of selling.

* Under-18s found with cannabis will get a fine and also be referred to an approved drug education provider. THIS IS AN ADDITION TO EXISTING PROVISIONS.

* Anyone smoking or cultivating cannabis within 100m of a school or other area mostly used by under 18s will get a $500 instant fine. THIS IS AN ADDITION TO EXISTING PROVISIONS.

* Cannabis is covered by the Smokefree Environments Act.

* Selling any amount of cannabis will remain illegal and subject to the same penalties as at present

* Possession of more that 28g of dried plant or 5g of cannabis preparation remains illegal and subject to the same penalties as at present.

* Revenue gathered from cannabis infringement fines would be earmarked to fund drug education and drug treatment provision.


"A lot of parents worry about their kids being dogged or stigmatised with a heavy criminal penalty for using cannabis when really the key issue we want to get across is a public health message."

Helen Clark says she does not support legalisation: "What I have said is that approaches around partial decriminalisation, partial prohibition, are well worth looking at."
NZ Herald - 19 July 2002

"I sat through all the hearings on the select committee (NSW inquiry into cannabis law reform) and there was some pretty powerful evidence that the criminal status of marijuana was also seen to be a cause of some of the problems that young people have."

Annette King
The Dominion, 17 March 2000.

"I recommend several major changes to existing strategies....
a) that the first line of defence against the abuse of cannabis should be provided by non-legal sanctions
b) that these sanctions should be base on sound drug education
c) that the legal sanctions used to supplement other measures should be modelled on those now employed against the use of alcohol."

Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology, Otago University.
Submission 80 to Health committee inquiry into cannabis

"Any proposals to change legislation should ensure that adolescents receive the clear signal that smoking cannabis is "Not OK"

Pauline Gardener
Submission 84 to Health committee inquiry into cannabis

"There is a clear need for policies relating to cannabis to avoid criminalising the majority of occasional recreational users who do not appear to pose a risk to themselves or any one around them"

Professor David Fergussen
Christchurch Health and Development Study, Christchurch School of Medicine
Submission 85 to Health committee inquiry into cannabis

"The New Zealand Medical Association does not oppose partial decriminalisation of cannabis, provided it can be shown that this will not increase the adverse effects related to cannabis use....Under partial decriminalisation health authorities would be able to offer more organised preventative and quitting interventions

New Zealand Medical Association
Submission 153 to Health committee inquiry into cannabis
Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Infringement) Amendment Bill
Questions and Answers

What does this Bill do?
The Bill creates a new approach to cannabis. Personal possession and use will now be dealt with by an instant fine, similar to a parking ticket, rather than by court proceedings. Measures to prevent young people using cannabis are strengthened.

The Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Infringement) Amendment Bill is a modest proposal for cannabis law reform. It contains measures to help break the link between cannabis and hard drugs, remove the disproportionate punishment of a criminal conviction, protect young people, free up police and court resources and retain a disincentive to use.

Why have you launched this Bill now?
In previous election campaigns there has been a lot of scaremongering about the Greens and cannabis. The bill shows that we have listened to the concerns of New Zealanders and responded with solution that has broad-based support. Most people agree that adults should not get a criminal conviction for personal use of cannabis, but want to see a message that drug use is discouraged. This bill does that.

The Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Infringement) Amendment Bill puts on the table exactly what the Greens propose by way of cannabis law reform following this election. If it is not drawn from the ballot of members bills before the election, it would form the basis for discussions on this issue after the election.

If we are in a position to do so, we will also ensure this Bill is accompanied by the comprehensive drug education programmes that have always been part of our policy.

When will adults get an instant fine rather than go to Court?
Possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis, or up to 5 grams of cannabis preparations, will now be subject to an instant fine of $100.

People who grow up to 5 small plants (with a total dry weight of up to 450grams) will be subject to an instant fine of $100, provided there is no evidence they are growing them for sale. This is to recognise that some people will grow their own and reduce the illegal market for cannabis.

What about selling cannabis?
Sale of cannabis will remain illegal. Under current law, possession of more than 28g of dry cannabis is deemed to be for supply and the onus is on the defendant to prove that it is not for supply. This bill retains that provision.

How does this compare to alcohol and tobacco?
Alcohol and tobacco are commercially produced and traded. That would remain illegal for cannabis under this bill. However personal use and possession is decriminalised and attracts only an instant fine. A financial penalty remains for cannabis use, but possession of small quantities no longer attracts a criminal record.

Is this approach taken anywhere else?
This Bill adopts a similar approach to that taken internationally in an increasing number of countries. South Australia and ACT both use "expiation notices" to avoid criminal convictions for small amounts of cannabis use.

What other restrictions will there be for cannabis?
Cannabis will be covered by the Smokefree Environments Act. In addition, the Bill creates a new offence of smoking, using or cultivating cannabis within 100 metres of any area used mostly by people under 18. This attracts an instant fine of $500.

This is a NEW offence, specifically aimed at keeping cannabis away from kids, and is in addition to existing penalties for trying to sell cannabis. The current law makes no recognition of age distinctions of this kind.

What will this Bill mean in practice?
This Bill breaks the link between cannabis use and hard drugs. By recognising that many adults cannabis consumers will discreetly grow a few plants for their own use, rather than buy cannabis from drug dealers, it means that they are less likely to come into contact with hard drugs.

What will be the effect on young people?
This Bill pays more attention to young people than the present law does.

Any person under 18 found with cannabis will be required to attend a compulsory drug education programme.

A new offence is created of smoking, using or cultivating cannabis within 100 metres of any area used most by people under 18.

Tinny houses will be starved of a significant chunk of their customers, and police resources will be freed up to focus on dealers, especially those selling to young people, as well as on crimes of violence and theft.

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