Cannabis-smoking former youth affairs minister Deborah Morris says she
longed to light up at Parliament during her three years in politics.

"If I had been able to use cannabis openly and with the regularity that
people drink alcohol around this place, then I would have," she said=

Ms Morris, a co-founding member of the Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform,
was back at Parliament to give evidence to a select committee inquiry into
reducing cannabis harm.

"We know of many people who have chosen not to declare their hand publicly,
for fear of the social and legal consequences," she told the inquiry. She
did not tell the committee of her own cannabis use.

Speaking after the hearing, she said she resented that it was acceptable
around Parliament to drink excessively, but not to smoke cannabis.

"I felt that I wasn't able to talk about a significant part of my life. I
worked with people who were talking all the time about their drinking
exploits =AD bragging, and saying they couldn't wait for a G and T," she=

"People who smoke cannabis live with the fear of social and legal
consequences for their actions every day."

Ms Morris, 30, said she considered herself a "role model in moderate,
responsible use of cannabis".

She smoked pot "recreationally" at weekends or for celebrations.

"It energises me, I become inspired, I become really talkative, I get good
at gardening and want to exercise a lot ... it enhances my life," Ms Morris

At yesterday's inquiry she called for regulation to replace criminalisation
of cannabis and, in the meantime, a moratorium on cannabis arrests.

"Like it or not, New Zealand must learn to live with cannabis use," she=

Cannabis user Ben Knight, co-founder of the coalition, told the inquiry of
the trauma of being arrested for cannabis possession.

"I would describe it as being like post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

He felt resentful toward police and authority, and dissociated from
non-smoking members of his family, friends and society.

The Drug Foundation called for diversion and education programmes, instead
of conviction, for people caught with cannabis.

People with a history of offending, often for non-drug-related crimes, were
denied diversion for cannabis possession and use, the foundation said. In
1999, about 12,000 people were apprehended for cannabis possession and use,
with about half receiving informal warnings.

Rotorua pathologist David Taylor raised concerns about the frequent
presence of cannabis in blood tests after suicides.

Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jul 2001
Source: Dominion, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2001 The Dominion
Author: Christine Langdon
Bookmark: (Cannabis)