NORML New Zealand: Cannabis News Network
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NORML Welcomes Cannabis Inquiry, Calls For Amnesty On Marijuana Arrests.
The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has welcomed the announcement by the Health Select Committee that it will hold an inquiry into health issues associated with cannabis, but expressed concern that what is really needed is an inquiry specifically into its legal status.
NORML has joined the Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform’s call for an immediate moratorium or amnesty on arresting New Zealand’s half-a-million cannabis consumers so that the issue can be discussed openly and honestly.
The terms of reference announced today by the Health Committee Chair Judy Keall MP are: "To inquire into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use and harm associated with cannabis and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis."
"Every major inquiry into cannabis policy around the world has recommended policies other than prohibition. NORML welcomes the opportunity to present hard evidence to the inquiry, and for the debate about cannabis laws to now be based on evidence and fact rather than emotion, rhetoric and moral judgments," said NORML President Chris Fowlie.
While welcoming the long-overdue inquiry, Mr Fowlie noted that these terms are substantially different to those originally proposed by the Inter-Agency Committee on Drugs (in a paper recently obtained by NORML under the Official Information Act). They now focus primarily on health matters instead of legal issues. "The Health Committee has already held an inquiry into cannabis in 1998, and they recommended another specifically into the legal status of cannabis. This should be done within the Justice Committee, however we still are pleased that the government are finally doing something after months of inaction and have not caved into the irrational demands of the National Party to not even talk about it."
NORML is also concerned about the late timing of the Inquiry. "Every day that goes by, another 41 people are arrested on cannabis charges, with 85% of them for small personal charges. The police will spend $65,000 a day performing this task and occupying the time of 146 full-time officers, and suppressing debate in the process," said Mr Fowlie.
New Zealand has the highest cannabis arrest rate in the world per capita - a full 50% higher than the United States. "There is another cannabis arrest every 30 minutes, and they wonder why pot smokers are paranoid," said Mr Fowlie.
NORML joins the Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform’s call for an immediate moratorium on arresting cannabis consumers. "It’s impossible to have an open and honest discussion within an environment of criminality and persecution. We call upon the Government and the Police to declare that they will not arrest or prosecute people who possess and use cannabis while this inquiry is being held."
ENDS / CONTACT: Chris Fowlie (09) 302-2555 or (025) 297-6843
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