Latest Figures Show Why Cannabis Inquiry Needed
Cannabis Arrests & School Suspensions Show Why Inquiry Is Needed
The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) today pointed to the latest figures for cannabis arrests and school punishments for proof that an inquiry into the legal status of cannabis is urgently needed.
NORML’s spokesperson Chris Fowlie said the figures showed that cannabis prohibition was a "complete failure" and that the health committee inquiry announced yesterday needs to look at what the current law was achieving. "Prohibition has clearly failed and it is time to try another approach. Arresting and expelling as many people as we can will not work."
The World’s Highest Number of Cannabis Arrests Per Capita
National Crime Statistics released today by the New Zealand Police show there were 23,205 reported cannabis offenses in for year to 30 June 2000. While this is down 8.3% from 98/99, it still represents 5.4% of all crimes reported by the Police. Cannabis offenses make up 92% of all reported drug offenses, and more than 80% are for personal use or possession.
"There is widespread public support for decriminalisation, but the Police are still placing a high priority on arresting cannabis smokers," said Mr Fowlie. "Another person is arrested for cannabis use or possession about every thirty minutes, giving New Zealand the highest cannabis arrest rate in the world per capita."
School Suspensions and Stand-downs "hypocrisy in action"
Figures released today by the Ministry of Education show that illegal and uncontrolled drugs are the top reason to suspend a school pupil, while those caught with alcohol or tobacco are more likely to be given a second chance, or ‘stand-down’. "Cannabis prohibition is based on hypocrisy," said Mr Fowlie, "and hypocritical laws lead to hypocritical treatment."
With 1506 suspensions compared to 842 stand-downs, school pupils caught using drugs were more likely to be suspended, while those caught with alcohol, which attracted 180 suspensions and 1032 stand-downs, were more likely to be given a second chance and stood down, even though alcohol is widely accepted as being more harmful than marijuana. Behaviours that had a victim were also more likely to result in a stand-down. 137 pupils were suspended for assaulting a staff member, while 323 were only stood-down. ‘Weapons’ resulted in 128 stand-downs but only 80 suspensions. Maori were also suspended at a much greater rate than their population or their drug use, and this racist pattern was also evident in arrest rates.
"This says a lot about moral attitudes towards cannabis, and is more likely to be a result of ‘tough on drugs’ crusades than any actual increase in cannabis use at schools. Prohibition has failed to stop these kids from trying cannabis, and now they have had their education taken from them as well.
"National’s Nick Smith complains that even talking about more sensible cannabis laws ‘sends the wrong message’ and is to blame for this rise in suspensions. He conveniently forgets that cannabis use rose by over 20% during his term in government, and he is yet to present any evidence to show that young people do interpret sensible drug laws as condoning drug use.
ENDS / CONTACT: Chris Fowlie (09) 302-2555 or (025) 297-6843
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