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Potent Drug Bill Passed By House

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 4) passed through its final reading last evening, with a rare consensus of the NZ Parliament. Perhaps even more remarkably, the bill introduces evidence to the classification of drugs - in the words of the Minister of Health Annette King: “ensuring proof, not politics is the order of the day”.

While mainly purporting to crack down on emerging drug threats, the appropriate response to existing drug problems is also implied by the new “evidence-based” legislation.

In perhaps the Government’s first sign of political will against ill-considered blanket prohibitions under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Mrs. King said “it would do us no harm at all to look at the current classifications to see if they are appropriate in this present day”.

The bill leaves such technical details to a newly formed Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) - which will also be reconsidering the existing anomalous criteria for “presumption for supply”. Another important part of the EACD’s brief is fulfilling a much needed “public awareness” role regarding the prevention of misuse of drugs and promoting the public health and well-being.

While marijuana was conspicuous by its absence from the hour of deliberations, there is little doubt that the 1998 health committee’s recommendations to review the appropriateness of existing policy on cannabis will be at the cutting edge of the workings of the bill, and the scientific advice of the expert committee - which is required to be balanced and objective with “consumer representation”.

Cannabis has long been the drug issue which has avoided “macro social change” on the basis of political expediency - the establishment of a statutory expert advisory committee removes significant barriers to resolving the debate.

Parliament is reviewing the legal status of cannabis with submissions into its “Inquiry into health strategies relating to cannabis use” closing on February the 7th. People are encouraged to contribute their perceptions and experiences of injustice under existing policy, to the Health Select Committee.

Although disappointed that Cannabis, Alcohol and Tobacco were not regulated consistently as an evidence-based starting point for the new Misuse of Drugs legislation, Cannabis Party web editors Kevin O’Connell and Blair Anderson said that the final passing of the Bill is nevertheless “a significant milestone for drug law reform.”

Asked whether they would consider appointment to the Expert Advisory Committee as joint consumer representatives, Mr Anderson and Mr O’Connell said that rather than join the “drug prevention gravy train” they would appreciate expeditious implementation of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party policy. The ALCP policy advocates the “social adjustment” advice of Professor David Pennington’s expert Advisory Council to the Victorian State Parliament in 1996 - notably:

 Legalisation of adults’ personal quantities and cultivation of marijuana
 Expungement of simple marijuana convictions.
 Freedom from discrimination.

cc: Hon. Annette King - Minister of Health

Kevin, Blair ph (643) 389 4065

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