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Mark Burton killing: Govt let it happen(again)


Mark Burton killing: Government let it happen(again)

MILD GREEN Initiatives

Mark Burton killing: Government let it happen (again)

"A worst case mental health scenario for at least half New Zealand's cannabis using teenagers would have to be their father working as a cop", says Mild Greens consumer advocate, Blair Anderson.

The Mild Greens say government Ministers must ultimately be held to account for maintaining and promoting a "toxic environment" which appears to have critically influenced Mark Burton's decline into mental health/drug and alcohol "dual diagnosis".

Inappropriate management of Burton’s well-being culminated in the killing of his mother in her Queenstown home, within hours of Burton’s release from Southland Hospital last year.

In a case with disturbing parallels to the Stephen Anderson Raurimu killings in February 1997, Burton was found not guilty of murder on the grounds of insanity, and subsequent inquiries have identified critical "shortfalls in the mental health system" leading to the family tragedy.

However, the Mild Greens say the real criminal in both instances is successive NZ Governments, for maintaining an unwarranted and corrupt discrimination regime - the state sanctioned "war on cannabis". (c/f HSC 1998 Inquiry into the Mental Health Effects of Cannabis recommending "review of the appropriateness of existing policy on cannabis and its use".)

Blair Anderson is speaking out in the lead up to this weekend’s cannabis law reform conference in Wellington at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae (Island Bay), in the hope that New Zealanders will recognise that the reform imperative extends beyond simply "keeping drugs out of the hands of teenagers".

"Prohibition, while absolutely hopeless in terms of restricting general access to marijuana, has a matrix of detrimental side effects in a community where people are alienated from each other because of the law", said Mr Anderson.

Although Burton’s father and former Policeman Trevor Burton has sought accountability for his son’s slack treatment and inappropriate release from Southland Hospital, the Mild Greens say the Health and Disability Commission should actually be inquiring into the broader social context of Mark’s ill-treatment under criminal stigmatisation, labelling and duress, on account of his cannabis use and cultural identification.

Discrimination is a crucial factor in Mental Health. A massive television campaign tells ordinary Kiwis that their attitude to the mentally ill makes all the difference.

But you’re allowed to discriminate against cannabis users in New Zealand: the weed is against the law because its use is "immoral". Why is it immoral to use cannabis? – well, because it’s against the law…

What was on Mark Burton's mind, ask the Mild Greens – and what circumstances precipitated his mental illness? Or perhaps more to the point, what was on the once happy, cherubic 17 year-old’s blue baseball cap? (for all who missed the repeated national television news coverage, or have suppressed the imagery, Mark’s baseball cap featured "the ubiquitous dope leaf" …)

Did overwhelming peer group pressure and the psychological conflict inherent in his father's "police officer" status perhaps all too unjustly require Mark to prove himself in a terrible psychological conflict - as a staunch young dude, or as a narc? What is criminalisation policy, if not a terrible way to treat people?

Reform groups believe there is more than ample evidence that the Police are wrongly "at war" against the cannabis community. Evidence including reports such as the recent Canadian Senate Committee Inquiry strongly suggests that criminalisation policy is costly, ineffective, racially biased and unjust.

But with a 26-year precedent for (de-facto) legal cannabis in Holland, the law as it stands in Aotearoa appears moreover to be outrageously outmoded, idiotic and/or rotten to the core.

While it is generally acknowledged that marijuana (like alcohol) may have some detrimental effects on some people, drug law reformers say detrimental effects of prohibition have to be acknowledged once and for all by health professionals, crime prevention, social policy administrators and law makers.

The Mark Burton case, amongst many, exposes a terrible flaw in community mental health management, and the danger of right wing "family values" – much as it reveals that Labour, with its suppressed and stalled cannabis health promotion inquiry, does not understand the meaning of good governance.

The Mild Greens say that Ministers of Health have been further remiss in ignoring coroner Tim Scott's concerns following Steven Anderson's rampage at Raurimu in February 1997 where 6 were gunned down by a "patient obsessed with cannabis". Mr Scott's final recommendation in relation to preventing such outcomes in future was that "health professionals must find away to overcome a patient's obsession with cannabis [prohibition], such as Stephen Anderson had.".

Youth Affairs Minister Tamaheri has recently repeated the mantra that NZ has unacceptably high rates of suicide, teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse and accidental deaths- and (doh) that a co-ordinated stategy is need.

The Mild Greens remind the concerned minister that on all accounts the Netherlands has better youth outcomes by an order of magnitude. Stony silence and delay in adjudication on Parlaiments cannabis law review is cultural insensitivity, irresponsible leadership and abuse of due process on a scale which defies comprehension.

"Until NZ’s toxic cannabis law changes equitably and community bigotry is severely restrained, dual diagnosis killings will happen again and again" say the Mild Greens.

Ministers, and protectors of prohibition one and all, you have blood on your hands Mild Green Initiatives,

http://www.mildgreens.com/press mailto:initiatives@mildgreens.com

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