"Pot" plant admired by Select Committee M.P.s
Press Release: 19 October 2001: MILD GREENS
"Pot" plant admired by Select Committee M.P.s
The unexpected appearance of a marijuana seedling brought smiles to M.P.s faces at a hearing on cannabis in Christchurch earlier this week.
Six M.P.s from the Labour, Alliance, Green and National parties gathered on Wednesday at the Russley Hotel to hear submissions on the Health Committee Inquiry into Health Strategies relating to Cannabis.
Members heard from a range of submitters including health experts, cannabis reform advocates, would-be cannabis entrepreneurs, and one aggrieved mother.
The marijuana plant, initially concealed in a foil-lined shoe box, was tabled by Kevin O'Connell, who said that the cannabis issue had to be brought out into the open, and that on principle he found prohibition repugnant and a desecration of nature.
As the seedling was passed around the table (protected under parliamentary privilege) it appeared some of the MPs had never actually directly viewed the subject of their inquiry. Committee Chair and Otaki M.P. Judy Keall remarked "what a beautiful little plant". Other M.P.s were concerned that the pot plant appeared to be in need of a drink, and dismay was expressed that the media were not present for an excellent photo opportunity.
Mr O'Connell, a Mild Green and recent Canterbury District Health Board Candidate (2866 provisional votes), pointed out that cannabis could be put into food as a natural and a smoke-free "harm reduction" alternative.
Virtually all submitters agreed that existing policy was a failure and counter productive - with side affects including black market violence, fear and mistrust between parent and child.
Only the aggrieved mother appeared to think criminalisation was appropriate. Committee members were evidently unconvinced that the lady’s trouble with her son was caused by cannabis alone...
Other compelling arguments for reform (and challenging the legitimacy of prohibition) were heard from NORML/ALCP associates including Warren Bryson, Brandon Hutchison, and Stephen McIntyre, amongst others. Another submitter wanted "coercive care" as implemented in Sweden. Whether this could work given the defiant attitude of NZ’s pervasive cannabis culture is seriously doubted.
Many submitters concluded that a consistent basis was needed for drug education and control particularly amongst tobacco, alcohol and cannabis. M.P.'s on the committee appear to generally accept of the logic of this strategy.
Members were reminded by Mr O'Connell that the 1998 Health Committee Inquiry into the Mental Health Effects of Cannabis found that the double standards surrounding cannabis were an "impediment to effective anti-drug education" - and that the 1986 Ottawa Charter "Bible" on health promotion requires such barriers be removed. He also pointed out that concerns were expressed in the 1927 House Debate on the Dangerous Drugs Bill (July 15), prior to the prohibition of cannabis, that Police were being given powers to which they were "not entitled" and that this could set a dangerous precedent.
The implications for other illicit drugs in widespread use (such as methamphetamine) will also have to be considered by government, and committee chair Judy Keall hinted at Wednesday’s cannabis hearing that a general drug review has indeed been scheduled. Last evening’s TV1 Assignment Documentary strongly indicated that prohibition of methamphetamine (speed) is also creating serious public health and community safety anomalies.
"Enhanced Protections" for the 1990 Smokefree Environments Act are also before the Health Select committee, with public submissions closing November 25th. Interestingly, Judy Keall's supplementary order paper for amendments to the Smokefree legislation accommodates, for the first time, "herbal smoking products"...
It is hoped that enlightened policy "beyond prohibition" will be implemented in New Zealand well before the general election set for late 2002. NZ statute, as amended in November 2000, provides that any drug may be removed expeditiously from the Misuse of Drugs regulations by Order in Council.
The Mild Greens "Analysis of the Health Benefits of Legal Cannabis" submitted to the Inquiry may be viewed at http://pages.quicksilver.net.nz/blair/healthbenefits.htm
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It is time within drug policy to set aside moral cowardice and adopt harm minimisation; it's the stuff of social capital.