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Cannabis bill "mockery of evidence-based process"

press release: Mild Greens 29/8/00

Youth Cannabis bill "mockery of evidence-based process" - Mild Greens

Marijuana law reformers have mixed feelings over the defeated “mock” vote to partially decriminalise cannabis in the youth Parliament today, saying the youth MPs were given a lousy policy option to vote on. Effectively the kids were presented with a dismal choice between prohibition and more prohibition - “we’d have voted NO as well”, said Mild Greens, Blair Anderson and Kevin O’Connell.

The Mild Greens say the actual outcome of 47 FOR, 69 AGAINST, and 3 abstinences in the vote, is as effectively banal as the 92% support for a 1999 election referendum to “fix the crime problem”.

“The instant fine option was like asking the kids if they wanted policy to send a wishy washy pro-drug message - of course there would be dissent.”

There is little evidence to support the simplistic policy appeasement of partial decriminalisation, say the Mild Greens - if anything it would increase the hypocrisy surrounding current drug laws, and widen the net of those victimised.

Blair Anderson said that government officials had presented the youth MP’s with a self-serving legislative option which implied Police would continue to be paid to home invade cannabis users, collecting fines for distribution to drug educators - “almost a worst-case scenario” he said.

The Mild Greens say that drug education is of no use at all if rendered ineffective by coercion and “double standards”, as the Health select committee concluded in its 1998 inquiry into cannabis.

“It is a pity that the real issue of the failure of existing policy was not put under proper scrutiny”, say the Mild Greens - the great and pervasive fallacy of Western Drug Policy is that prohibition equates to control (Dr. John Marks, NZ Drug Policy Forum Trust).

Policy analyst Kevin O’Connell said that when the legal drinking age was lowered last year, MPs had the benefit of a highly civilised due process where options were presented in a series of conscience votes, ranked from least restrictive to most restrictive. "If applied to cannabis reform, this would mean that there would be firstly a minimum acceptance that cannabis should not be a criminal offence, progressing to the next level where the appropriateness of maintaining a civil penalty was scrutinised, then whether non-profit trade was acceptable, and so on."

The Mild Greens said that although there were several outstanding youth speeches arguing that the right to make an informed choice should be paramount, there were also some "bloody awful" ones - many Youth Parliamentarians appeared to have been misguided by the silly debate option. Despite a disturbing show of anti-cannabis prejudice, there was however consensus that marijauna-related problems including "trouble with the law" were not being addressed under the current administration, and that change was needed.

It is hoped that the confused Youth outcome today will send a clear message to Government that the long overdue cannabis law review should no longer be predicated on Prime Minister Helen Clark’s outdated preference for instant fines, a “toe-in-the-water” view she first expressed in 1994.

In reality, reform sentiment is based on evidence that controlled availability - also known as legal regulation or full decriminalisation - is the only cure for prohibition. According to the UMR Insight poll of last week, 60% of the population now believe prohibition to be wrong - "so what is stopping Government from intervening to eliminate the black market and criminal justice turnover???"

Commonsense suggests the focus must be shifted into establishing a harm-minimised control of cannabis demand and supply - the positive approach of reformist groups, including the Green’s, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, and the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties. A simple reform is needed to return credibility to drug controls, health promotion, and rule of law, say Anderson and O'Connell:

"Just cut the sanctimonious politically correct crap and legalise it".

The Mild Greens, who battled innumerable technical glitches to publish the debate on the internet, said that the world was watching New Zealand over the cannabis review - “and marijuana remains the issue against which we measure our progress as a civilised society.”


Kevin, Blair (03) 389 4065 -- http://www.alcp.org.nz

c/- Blair Anderson mailto:blair@technologist.com

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