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Bong Ban Is Harm Maximisation

National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, New Zealand Inc. 1st floor, 60 Queen Street PO Box 3307 Shortland St. Auckland Aotearoa New Zealand. Tel: (09) 302 5255 Fax: (09) 303 1309 E-mail: norml@apc.org.nz Internet: www.norml.org.nz

MEDIA RELEASE -- 17 JUNE 2000 -- FOR IMMEDIATE USE

HEALTH MINISTER SAYS OFFICIAL DRUGS POLICY IS HARM MINIMISATION, BUT HER BONG BAN IS HARM MAXIMISATION

The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws New Zealand (NORML NZ) has today condemned the Minister of Health Annette King for pressing ahead with the National Party’s ban on selling pipes and bongs, due to take effect on July 1 2000.

On June 13, Green MP Nandor Tanczos tabled a petition of almost 5000 signatures calling for the repeal of the ban on harm minimisation grounds. The Minister of Health responded by simply reminding retailers that after July 1 they face fines of up to $5000 for selling a pipe or bong.

NORML spokesperson Chris Fowlie says NORML opposes the ban not only because it ignores the rights of marijuana smokers, but because pipes and bongs are proven to reduce the harmful effects of smoking. "New Zealand’s official National Drug Policy is founded upon the principle of "harm minimisation." Drug policy should work to reduce harms to drug users and their communities, but this ban will maximise harm because pipes and bongs reduce carcinogenic tars, heat, and burning embers and other solid particulates," he said.

"The only scientific justification offered for the Notice appears to be an unpublished study conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and California NORML in 1995 that claimed to show water pipes to be ineffective. Their finding that THC is more water-soluble than tars is unique to this study and has not been replicated. There are dozens of studies that have not found THC to be water-soluble, and that water pipes remove the most carcinogenic tars from cannabis smoke.

"We find it most unusual that the Minister of Health is prepared to base public health policy upon a single, unpublished, unreviewed and un-replicated study which bases it’s conclusions upon questionable assumptions and whose own authors caution that "it is still premature to conclude that they are actually harmful to health."

"It appears the Minister may need reminding that there are half a million people in New Zealand who admit to being regular cannabis smokers, and over half our adult population - including herself - admits to trying cannabis at some point. To further strengthen cannabis prohibition in this way is deeply shocking coming from a "progressive" Labour Government that has indicated reform is imminent, and in particular coming from someone who has admitted to past cannabis use," Mr Fowlie said. "The ban also threatens the livelihoods of over 200 Kiwi small businesses who may face closure because of this ban."

"NORML calls upon the Minister of Health to issue another Gazette Notice to rescind the Misuse of Drugs (Prohibition of cannabis utensils) Notice 1998. Rather than a sign of being weak, repealing this Notice would demonstrate that unlike her predecessor Mrs King bases public health policy on science and reason rather than merely deciding upon a course of action and using whatever "evidence" they can find to justify it."

CONTACT: CHRIS FOWLIE 09 302-5255 or 025 297-6843

-- ends –


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