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Renewed Call For Debate On Cannabis


420 Staff
The New Zealand Drug Foundation hopes to reignite the debate over legalising cannabis and has the backing of other health sector experts.

Foundation head Ross Bell says politicians had to take cannabis out of the too-hard basket and revisit the discussion.

Half of New Zealanders had tried cannabis, he said, and one in eight used it regularly, but Parliament had not touched the issue since the 2000 Health Commission Inquiry and subsequent debate was stifled by the Government-United Future coalition in 2003.

"Misinformation and hysteria do not help a society deal effectively with cannabis," Bell said. "And the stigmas around use and fear of prosecution often stop the cannabis-dependent from seeking help."

Politicians were happy to debate party pills and methamphetamine, because the public was on their side, he said. Although cannabis was not seen as a vote winner, questions surrounding its social harm remained, he said.

"These include health effects, whether there is any valid medical use, its links with mental illness, supporting schools dealing with student cannabis ( use ), driving under the influence and the pros and cons of decriminalisation."

With party pills being made illegal at the end of the year it was time the cannabis debate started, he said.

Alcohol and Drug Association chief executive Kate Kearney agreed it was time the debate was relaunched. The association had tracked increasing calls to the Alcohol and Drug Helpline over the last year. The calls had mainly come from men in the 19 to 25 age group.

Professor David Fergusson, who leads the long-running University of Otago's Christchurch Health and Development Study, said the 2003 debate had been politically thwarted. "Secondly, evidence as to the adverse effects of cannabis has increased in the last few years."

New Zealand needed to develop a grey position of tolerance which included the criminalisation of the sale, supply or purchase of cannabis, he said. But the possession of cannabis by responsible recreational users should be legal.

Fergusson, whose long-term study has followed 1265 people since 1977, said cannabis was imbedded in New Zealand society. "Now New Zealand has to learn to live with it."

The Drug Foundation has dedicated the November issue of its quarterly magazine, Matters of Substance, to cannabis. A Let's Talk About Pot section has also been added to the foundation's website.

Source: Press, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2007 The Christchurch Press Company Ltd.
Contact: editorial@press.co.nz
Website: The Press - Get the latest local, national and world news from Christchurch's daily newspaper


New Member
Prof Fergusson is right on the money, the NZ debate was thwarted. But long before 2003. It was thwarted in 1996 when the National Drug Policy avoided the legislative implications of doing the absolutely essential cost-benefit analysis. Absent a baseline all the rest just become words in the wind. Despite cost benefit being highly indicated 12 years ago, it is still not done and despite it being again highlighted in public submissions during the 2006 "National Drug Policy" review, there remains no progress. It is policy fraud. A health malpractice and administrative malfeasance perpetuated in the name of a vociferous few for the benefit of so many, police, justice, corrections, treatment.. yadda yadda.....
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