"Take off the Blinkers", say Alcohol Drug Reform
28 July 1999
"Take off the Blinkers", say Alcohol ; Drug Reformers
"The conscience votes on liquor beginning this week are bereft if they don't make one on cannabis" said Christchurch election candidates Blair Anderson and Kevin O'Connell. ALCP members are critical of the level of debate on the contentious liquor reforms including the lowering of the drinking age.
Health and public safety groups such as AA and the Children's Commissioner are arguing that liberalisation will lower the threshold for liquor availability, while reformist interests say that the problem is providing a safe environments across the social spectrum and that exceptions to the present laws for under 20 yr. olds contributed to poor enforcement & checking of age.
According to mainstream media, there appears to be no resolution but by arbitrary acceptance of disparate argument by the 120 MPs. However, the ALCP cut the argument down the middle and have opened a window of opportunity. They say "stop the hypocrisy and debate the facts in recognition that the youth of NZ are sick of being lied to about drugs."
The 1998 Health inquiry into cannabis was Parliament's last major discussion of drug related sociological issues including linkage with alcohol in NZ. It recommended that the double standard between liquor and cannabis be addressed because it was an impediment to education about the risks of drugs, including alcohol.
NZ's prestigious Drug Foundation recommended to that inquiry that Parliament take a systematic and holistic approach to youth problems- But not one person in Parliament has been heard to quote the significant cannabis Inquiry conclusions in relation to the Liquor reform.
The ALCP say Parliament must address the real drug issue isolated by that inquiry which is the fact that "young people are deaf the current system of education messages about drugs." The problem is adults are out of touch; only last week Christchurch Press reported PRYDE's acknowledgment "when adults talk about smoking, young people think marijuana."
Every report shows up the need to review legal status of cannabis. A MoH analysis for then Health Minister Shipley by the senior Heath Promotion Advisor dated 1 Feb 1996 indicated that Government policy development on drug harm minimisation was flawed in one major respect- "it does not address the legal status".
"Getting beyond political correctness is the crucial problem of the moment" say the reformers. To even talk about the necessary drug law reform is perceived as "pro drug". The ugly reality is that hundreds of arrests are made for cannabis every day in New Zealand creating terrible legacy of fear and chronic alienation from the rule of law and contempt for authority. Members of the ALCP say to continue to put up with this flawed paradigm is folly, and only one little debate and vote is needed to free New Zealand of extreme repression.
The ALCPs recent recommendation as a simple conscience issue to the health committee in an open letter(1) to chairperson Brian Neeson, was that "Parliament accept that 'criminal intervention' cannabis measures are inappropriate, unsustainable, and unacceptable and that an equitable system of control for cannab be provided as an urgent national priority."