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Integrated drug policy approach required

2 Dec 2004

Alcohol problem a "drugs, prevention of misuse" issue.

An integrated drug policy approach is required if the problems with New Zealand's apparent misuse of alcohol, and other drugs, are to be resolved. "There ought to be consistency between alcohol and cannabis, NZ's two most popular intoxicants" comment the Mild Greens following an uninsightful, narrow and inconclusive 'TVOne Insight' programme last evening.

"It is not just about the drinking culture", say the Mild Greens, "the hypocrisy of our double-standard based drug laws permeates the whole culture. There is a systemic contempt for authority and conservative health messages that is evident in the perceived alcohol drinking age issue".

The same deviancy-amplifying contempt is also evident in boy racers, teen sexual health, vandalism and littering problems. There is ample evidence of a core conflict between the goal of minimising harm and criminalising otherwise law-abiding citizens. A disreputable, bullying approach to the 'non-crime' of cannabis has chronically undermined respect and authority in NZ.

The Health Select Committee Inquiry in 1998 unanimously concluded that double standards surrounding cannabis [alcohol and tobacco] are "an impediment to effective anti-drug education". [ http://mildgreens.com/inq1.htm#double standard ]

"While government is supposedly concerned about civil society and human rights (e.g. civil union bill), they have missed a far greater inequity in the Kiwi smoker status", say the reformers.

NZ cannabis use compares with that of tobacco. Prevalence is at 22% amongst 15 to 65 year olds according to the OECD August 2004 'lifestyle' report. However the real smoking issue has been allowed to slip through the cracks of new SmokeFree legislation coming into force next week.

When the Ministry of Health introduced the National Drug Policy drafts 9 years ago, alcohol and tobacco were included with 'other drugs' in a comprehensive approach. Unfortunately, due to political and stakeholder motives, the official policy was 'disintegrated' by the time it was released and "remains evidence debased to this day", say the MildGreens.

Submissions are now open on Jim Anderton's Supplementary Order Paper (SOP #298) on the Misuse of Drugs Act amendment bill currently before Parliament. The SOP introduces a category within the schedules for handling 'legal drugs of abuse'.

"What does Anderton's new R18-based drug schedule imply for cannabis, alcohol and tobacco in light of the Health Select Committee conclusion from 1998?", ask the MildGreens.

Curiously, the provisional name of the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act was the aptly titled "Drugs Prevention of Misuse Act". Hindsight with Insight! suggest the Mild Greens.


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