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Showdown looming over cannabis documentary

Showdown looming over cannabis documentary

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago has threatened to charge a university club hundreds of dollars if it 'promotes illegal activity' at the premiere of the documentary Druglawed.

The World Premiere of the documentary, which examines New Zealand's involvement in the US led War on Drugs, has been organised by OUSA affiliated club Otago NORML for tomorrow night at the University's College of Education Auditorium. Filmed in six countries over six years, this is the first feature length documentary examining the effects of international cannabis prohibition on New Zealand society. Over 40 years since Richard Nixon declared the War On Drugs in 1972, 22 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana. Only one country in the world has higher arrest and conviction rates, New Zealand. The film features well known local and international drug policy experts alongside New Zealand politicians such as John Key, Metiria Turei and Nandor Tanczos.

Vice Chancellor Harlene Hayne said the club's right to use the auditorium to hold the event was dependent on whether the group 'openly promotes illegal activity', and has threatened to charge the club punitive fees if they do. She has also threatened that students may be dealt with under the University's Code of Conduct.

The problem is, the film is entirely about and illegal substance. Furthermore, the NORML club which features in the film and is hosting the premiere regularly promotes illegal acts as form of civil disobedience protest.

And a prominent University academic is backing their right to encourage civil disobedience. Professor Andrew Geddis of Otago's Law Faculty wrote in an email to the NORML group's leader, 'If they came after you or others for making that sort of [civil disobedience] argument then I’d be willing to argue your side.'

The Catholic Church is also outraged that Mother Mary Joseph Aubert is credited in the film with being one of New Zealand's first growers of marijuana. But, Druglawed director and producer, South African filmmaker Arik Reiss stands by the authenticity of his research about the soon-to-be Catholic Saint. Mr Reiss will be at the premiere for a question and answer session after the screening.

The World Premiere of Druglawed will be held in Dunedin at 6.30pm on April 14th at the College of Education Auditorium (145 Union Street East).


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