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O'Connell selected for Youth Affairs portfolio

Press Release, to all media: Embargoed to 12:00am, 5/9/99.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has announced that third time cannabis reform candidate Kevin O'Connell has provisional selection at number 3 with the ALCP's team of intending millennium MPs.

List selections for the party have closed for initial shuffling, and indicate that Mr. O'Connell, a cutting edge policy analyst holding degrees in computer science and English, is close behind Leader Michael Appleby, and recently rotated party deputy, Alan Webb of Hawkes Bay.

Brandon Hutchison, National Secretary of Christchurch, said that given O'Connell's track record including recent advocacy at the Social Policy Select committee (Tattoo Parental Consent Bill, 1998, hearing 1/9/99, Parliament), there really wasn't any dispute as to who was the appropriate Party spokesperson on the crucial youth issue.

O'Connell argued convincingly, using Parliament's finding of the 1998 health committee inquiry on cannabis, that the tattoo bill's effectiveness would be greatly assisted, if an enforced age of consent was inclusive of cannabis.

Tattoos can prejudice the future opportunity of a young person who makes an immature decision, said Mr. O'Connell. The stigma is remarkably similar to that of a conviction or expulsion for possession of "dope", which are significant drug-related harms, "foolishly under-quantified and ignored by government", says O'Connell.

The hearing on introducing an age prohibition on tattoos, chaired by govt's Joy Quigley, heard that with one exception (being written parental consent), the tattoo proposal almost exactly paralleled the new liquor harm prevention regulations and was therefore logically consistent and worthy. Mrs. Quigley said that bill's promoter, National back- bencher Eric Roy would be impressed that his introduction of tattoo regulations had the backing of the legalise cannabis party.

However, Mr. O'Connell emphasised, that in terms of double standards with cannabis, it was "perverse to have one law remaining transparently in disrepute." [see "double standard" extract, p39 "Health" cannabis report, 1998].

O'Connell was critical yesterday on National Radio [reporter, Mary-Jane Aggat], of the education legislation amendment's which have ignored social mechanisms indicating the causes of NZ's appalling school suspensions increase over the last year.

"Having a prohibition on cannabis when it is easily available to youth on the black market, sends a message that our laws are stupid and not to be respected." This has been clearly indicated for over 30 years now, said Mr O'Connell who points to the sociological evidence of the experts who sat on the British Royal Commission (Wootton, 1969), and the confirmation of the USA National Academy of Sciences, 1984, that "alienation from rule of law in a democratic society may be the most serious cost of [attempting to prohibit cannabis]". "In being persistent and honest, Kev has earned himself ownership of the youth-drugs-crime issue" said Blair Anderson former deputy who is also picked to be safely in the mix of MPs, if the party collect the 5 to 10% of voters it is hoping to get from endorsement by the youth voter demograph.

This means part of the ALCP's price of coalition could include Mr Kevin O'Connell as Minister of Youth Affairs, with a renewed accountability in the public sector holistic assessment of evidence as a critical reform.

*** NEWS FLASH: prohibition linked again to youth suicide: In a cutting edge internet survey conducted this evening by Anderson and O'Connell, a filtered search on the keywords "expulsion OR suspension, education OR school, marijuana OR cannabis, PLUS suicide" identified 727 web site articles, and identifying the cannabis mental health inquiry p34 reference "as the top hit", said Mr Anderson. The House of Representative's report links alienation caused by labeling young people as deviants, as a precursor for negative outcomes such as dropping out of school and suicide. ***

"Supportive and corrective environments are the way of the future", said Mr Anderson- "and Parliament knows it, even if the current government is reluctant to admit it is wrong over the criminalisation of NZ's youth". Anderson, the party's leading internet specialist, is picked as a potential talent for Minster of Communications and Technology in an ALCP coalition Government.

"Government has one chance for restoring a shred of credibility in the lead up to the election," say the candidates, "and that is that if it strengthens youth well-being by recognising that the inappropriate legal status must be reconsidered, as twice recommended by the Health select Committee." (reports tabled 17 Dec. 1998, & 10 June 1999).

Prohibition and "get tough messages" have proved to be an impediment in solving the problem, "which is prohibition and the attendant social engineering", said Mr O'Connell. Social ecology and balancing of nature are needed in a holistic managing of our community according to natural law, and the policy of the ALCP.

O'Connell and Anderson will be scouting for a youth advocate or three at this week's "Youth Day Forum" to be held at the Riccarton Park Function Centre, Christchurch on Tuesday 7 Sept, and backed by Christchurch City Council.

There are also issues of looking after the older folk too. Regulating cannabis and hemp commerce will revolutionize NZ's flagging economy, and get the justice, superannuation, health, education and horticulture sectors working again for the benefit of all, say the party. With ALCP in parliament come election day, there will likely be instant deliverables for the people of New Zealand, and no other party has such a potent election appeal.

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