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News (Media Awareness Project) - New Zealand: Editorial: Cannabis Policies Are Not Working But
Title:New Zealand: Editorial: Cannabis Policies Are Not Working But
Published On:2012-01-10
Source:Gisborne Herald (New Zealand)
Fetched On:2012-01-12 06:01:34

A Lancet survey that shows New Zealanders and Australians are the
world's biggest pot smokers will come as no surprise, particularly in
this district.

The survey shows that 15 percent of Australians and New Zealanders
aged 15 to 64 have used the drug in the past year, compared with rates
of 1.2 to 2.5 percent in Asia.

The use of methamphetamines and ecstasy is also the highest in the
world, with 2.5 percent trying these more dangerous drugs.

This district has been known as a prime growing area for years, with
the annual police swoop always producing a good "crop". The East Coast
climate and cannabis seem to be a good fit.

So while the usage rate is no surprise, the burning question is where
does this leave society?

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell makes a good
point when he says the report also shows the ineffectiveness of
current drug policies. He says the drug problem should be seen first
and foremost as a health issue.

"We are not sure of what other health issues there are in the world
that we expect the criminal justice system to solve," he said.

The erstwhile leader of the Act Party, Don Brash, created a storm when
he said during the election campaign that cannabis should be
legalised. Even his key Epsom candidate and now the party's last man
standing in Parliament, John Banks, came out strongly against him. But
on this issue Dr Brash may be closest to most people's thinking.

There will always be a big chunk of society that will oppose the
decriminalisation of cannabis.

But if the drug that causes the most harm, alcohol, is freely and
legally available how can it logically be argued that cannabis should
still be banned? Decriminalisation would also be a major blow for the
gangs that do so well out of the drug trade.

Full legalisation might be going too far but it is certainly time for
a new approach to the issue.

It is a subject that Parliament should turn its attention to in
2012...but it won't.
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