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Coalition Calls For Moratorium On Cannabis Arrests

Coalition Calls For A Moratorium On Cannabis Arrests While Review Takes Place

The Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform today welcomed the government's announcement of the terms of reference for the first inquiry into the health effects and legal status of cannabis since 1973. The Coalition has called for a moratorium on arrests for personal amounts of cannabis in light of this announcement.

The Coalition will be writing to the Health Select Committee chair, Judy Keall and Prime Minister Helen Clark, asking that they recognise that the current threat of arrest and imprisonment for cannabis possession will act as a deterrent to those who might wish to discuss the health effects associated with their own cannabis use.

The Coalition estimates that the police will arrest and prosecute some 6000 cannabis users between now and the closing date for submissions in February 2001. The coalition believes that this represents a considerable deterrent to the estimated half a million regular cannabis users from becoming involved in this debate.

"We want a fair and open review. Unfortunately, a large proportion of those affected by the current illicit status of cannabis are too fearful of the law to speak freely and openly on this issue, let alone actually preparing and presenting submissions to the inquiry", said Les Gray, educational psychologist and CCLR spokesperson.

"By placing a moratorium on cannabis arrests, while the review is conducted, government will the open the doors to widespread and honest public consultation and debate on this issue" he added.

The coalition believes that without honest and open consultation and debate the review process will fail to address the needs of the thousands of New Zealanders affected by the prohibition of cannabis.

Hon. Deborah Morris said, "In a country which prides itself on democracy and the freedom of speech the legal status of cannabis, which entails the threat of arrest and imprisonment, will effectively silence the significant and untapped well of support from people who are in favour of fundamental changes to our failed cannabis policy".

"The coalition will be doing its utmost to ensure that the views of the hundreds of thousands of cannabis users out there are sought and considered in the review process" added Ms Morris.

ENDS

Contact Leg Gray 021 436234 or Hon. Deborah Morris 025 544299


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