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NZ First Wants To Make New Zealand Last

Media Release:
NORML New Zealand Inc
www.norml.org.nz

15 September 2005

NZ First Wants To Make New Zealand Last

* UK report confirms teen use dropped 15% following cannabis reclassification *


AUCKLAND: The cannabis law reform group, NORML, says the New Zealand First Party is rushing to make New Zealand last in the world to change its laws on cannabis.

"Its unfortunate that New Zealand First has joined the UFO Party in demanding that NZ keep a policy that many senior Labour and National MPs - including Helen Clark and Don Brash - have agreed is not working," said NORML president Chris Fowlie.

"Whatever people think about the use of cannabis, the law is not working. Despite having the world's highest arrest rate for cannabis, more young Kiwis use it now than ever before," said Mr Fowlie. "Even Peter Dunne has agreed that the present law was not working.

"In the UK, teenage use fell by 15 per cent in the year following the reclassification of cannabis to be a non-arrestable offence."

"Yet here we have Mr Whiskey Peters and Mr Peter Dunne-hill, Parliament's most prominent tobacco lobbyist, ganging up to block any change to the legal status of cannabis. They are both the leaders of tiddler parties desperate for votes, regardless of whether their policies make any practical sense," says Mr Fowlie.

"During this parliamentary term, the cross-party health select committee concluded that "the current prohibition regime is not effective in limiting cannabis use. Prohibition results in high conviction rates for a relatively minor offence, which inhibits people's education, travel and employment opportunities. Prohibition makes targeting education, prevention, harm minimisation and treatment measures difficult because users fear prosecution. It also facilitates the black market, and potentially exposes cannabis users to harder drugs."

"Winston First and the UFO party are actually promoting the unregulated spread of "P" and other substances, and their sale to teenagers, if they only knew it".

Mr Fowlie said the public did have genuine reasons to be concerned about drug laws in New Zealand, but it would be a pity if unscrupulous politicians traded on that concern to increase their vote by promoting a "do-nothing" attitude.

"Cannabis law reform is happening or has happened in Australia, in the UK, in other European countries and in Canada and the USA.

"Teenage use of cannabis dropped in the UK following their reclassification of cannabis to a lower, non-arrestable, level. That success recently prompted David Cameron, a leading UK Conservative politician, to call for the legal regulation of all drugs. It is bizarre that NZ First is demanding that NZ should be the last country in the world to keep unworkable and unjust policies."

Mr Fowlie also warned NZ First that its new policy might backfire. "Since United Future and the Jim Anderton party jumped on the anti-reform bandwagon last election, their vote has dropped by half or even more. Whiskey Peters should be very very afraid," concluded Mr Fowlie.

ENDS

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