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Conservative Youth MPs Support Arresting Peers

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NORML New Zealand: Cannabis News Network

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National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, New Zealand Inc.

MEDIA RELEASE – 29 AUGUST 2000 – FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Conservative Youth MPs Support Arresting Their Pot Smoking Peers

Motion To Introduce Fines For Home Use Lost By 47-69

NORML Reminds MPs The Voting Public Supports Cannabis Law Reform

The Youth Parliament today rejected instant fines for personal cannabis use at home. Chris Fowlie, president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) welcomed the vote as a clear rejection of the instant fines model, and reminded grown-up MPs that the voting public supports "real" cannabis law reform.

"The Bill was lost because it did not go far enough, and because the Youth Parliament was not representative of young people," said Mr Fowlie. "There is an emerging consensus that the use of cannabis by adults should not be a crime, and the issue of concern is the unrestricted access to cannabis by young people."

Gemma Stewart, Youth MP for Lailla Harre said "The bill was far from ideal. There needed to be more work done on it before it could go to an honest vote. I hope that youth continue to debate this issue and that parliament, teachers and the wider community support young people in debating this issue openly and honestly"

Heath Walters, Youth MP for Jenny Shipley said "The bill itself was seriously flawed and did not represent real change. Many youth MPs allowed themselves to be railroaded by biased information and a small but vocal group of youth MPs. We did not receive the NORML information until the last minute. Unfortunately this meant that some youth MPs had already been swayed by the information they received from prohibitionist organisations such as PRYDE and FADE. Everybody needed a chance to hear the evidence that was presented to the select committee. We needed more time to debate this issue. Unfortunately, many of the youth MPs did not have the opportunity to become fully informed on this complex and important issue."

Ben Knight, the NORML Wellington Branch convener said "NORML's submission to the Bill explained the failure of instant fines in South Australia, which does nothing to end the lucrative black market and the uncontrolled availability of cannabis, and has seen a doubling of the number of people in the courts for cannabis charges and the continued discrimination against young and disadvantaged people. Youth MPs were not allowed to propose amendments or other options, and so they rejected this failed option outright.

"Only a regulated model will allow society to have control over the cannabis marketplace. NORML believes our grown-up MPs should also reject instant fines and support the regulation and taxation of cannabis." added Mr Knight

A UMR poll for The Dominion last week found 60% of New Zealanders support ending the arrest of cannabis users, and that "taking a hard line on cannabis law reform is not a vote winner" (The Dominion, August 21 2000). Support was highest among younger age groups and higher income levels.

"The Youth Parliament itself could not be said to be representative of young people in general, but largely of head prefects and hand-picked clones of conservative MPs. We have learned that many Youth MPs have also been under substantial pressure from their schools, parents and sponsoring MPs to vote to keep cannabis prohibition," said Mr Fowlie.

The Cannabis (Partial Decriminalisation for Personal Use) Bill would have: · Replaced arresting only those adults who are caught possessing less 5 grams of cannabis in their own home with a $100 instant fine; · Retained arresting anyone caught smoking cannabis in public or even "within view of a public place"; · Retained criminal offences for using, cultivating, buying and selling cannabis.

-- ENDS --

CONTACT: · NORML president Chris Fowlie 025 297 6843 · NORML Wellington branch convener Ben Knight 025 377 509

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