New Zealand: National Conversation on Marijuana Policy Urged

The nonpartisan New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF) is attempting to jump-start a renewed national debate about marijuana policy in the country, and it appears to be working. Since its call for a "national conversation" a week ago, NZDF has garnered considerable media attention and prompted responses from activist groups, political parties, and government officials.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/talkaboutpot.jpg
NZDF campaign graphic
"Cannabis is New Zealand's favorite illicit drug," said NZDF executive director Ross Bell as he kicked off the crusade, "but it receives scant attention from politicians, policymakers or the media. When it is discussed, evidence is often discarded in favor of myth, misinformation and polarized posturing."

According to recent national research, 18% of New Zealanders between the ages of 15 and 45 are regular users, while 58% of that group have used it at least once. But while use levels are relatively high, support for legalizing marijuana has declined, according to NZDF-commissioned polls released last week.

That polling found that just 19% want marijuana laws liberalized, down from 60% in 2000. The study found that 46% were happy with the status quo, while 34% wanted the laws to be tougher.

NZDF does not take a position on marijuana law reform, but it argues that policy should be based on scientific evidence. "Misinformation and hysteria don't help a society deal effectively with cannabis use, and stigmas around use and fear of prosecution often prohibit cannabis-dependent people from seeking much needed help," said Bell.

"Parliament hasn't touched cannabis since the Health Commission Inquiry in 2000, which did make a number of recommendations. However, debate was stifled by the 2003 coalition agreement between the government and United Future, which effectively froze the legal status of cannabis," Bell noted.

"But while politicians ignore the pot problem, its associated social harms continue. We need government to take the lead in formulating good, well-researched policy discussion based on best evidence. We need the addiction treatment, public health and drug policy sectors to get vocal and inject their knowledge into the debate as well," he said.

The New Zealand Green Party was quick to welcome the call for a renewed conversation on marijuana. "The drug debate in New Zealand very quickly becomes dominated by fear and anxiety," Green MP Metiria Turei said in a press release last week. "Developing a sensible approach to drug uses becomes very difficult in that kind of climate."

Citing marijuana use figures, Turei said: "Rather than these figures indicating that every second New Zealander is a drug-addled criminal, they show that current government policies are not based on the reality of the situation and do not contribute to developing socially responsible behavior."

Cannabis should part of a broader regulatory system for drugs including alcohol and tobacco, and the NZDF call is an important first step, she said. "A balanced and informed national debate facilitated by the Drug Foundation will be an excellent step towards developing a constructive approach to drug use, rather than the piecemeal, fanciful and ultimately damaging official response that currently exists," according to Turei.

Deputy Health Minister for drug policy Jim Anderton took issue with Bell's contention that the government had ignored marijuana in pursuit of the drug threat du jour. "I must say that I am surprised and concerned at the comments by the Executive Director of the Drug Foundation, that politicians don't want to talk about cannabis because it is not a 'vote winning issue'. He can't be talking about me!" Anderton said in his own press release. "I've spoken about the harm it causes at meetings all around the country and at some of those he was also present," he noted.

"Parliament is not ignoring the issue," Jim Anderton said, pointing to an inquiry four years ago. "There was a Health Select Committee inquiry into cannabis in 2003 with various recommendations made to the Government. The efforts outlined above have been part of the Government's response to these recommendations."

"In my view the jury is now in on cannabis -- from research in New Zealand and overseas. Cannabis is a much more harmful drug than its supporters have hitherto declared and we would encourage its use at the peril, particularly, of our younger citizens. Surely in alcohol and tobacco we have enough serious drug abuse problems to deal with and I'm surprised that the New Zealand Drug Foundation has any doubts at all about that," Anderton said.

New Zealand NORML, for its part, called for a "clear-headed" approach to a new discussion of marijuana policy. It also took issue with the new poll numbers suggesting support for legalization had declined.

"The latest poll asked whether cannabis laws should be made 'tougher' or 'more liberal', but previous polls had asked whether people wanted continued prohibition, decriminalization or legalization. If you change the question, of course you will change the result. That's a no-brainer," the group said in a press release. "If they had asked the same question we think they would find there remains strong support for cannabis law reform. There is very little public appetite for arresting and jailing responsible adults who use cannabis in the privacy of their own home, yet that is the daily reality of the existing cannabis laws."

Prohibition is not the answer, New Zealand NORML said. "Many people want access to cannabis made tougher, but prohibition merely provides an illusion of toughness. Behind the facade it is very easy for minors to access cannabis whenever they want. Age ID is not requested, and buyers are often put in contact with other drugs. If we seriously want tougher cannabis laws, the best way to do that is to regulate and license its sale, including strict enforcement of a purchase age."

And so the conversation begins again in New Zealand.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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so bad?

If cannabis is so harmful, then why can't the hypocrites just prohibit alcohol, again. It is much more deadly! "Young people" have died from alcohol binges, many times. Yet, it is hard to find any evidence of THC containing products ever killing anyone!

But, the politicians like to say "cannabis is a much more harmful drug than thought" but fail to back it up with evidence.

As thought, by whom?! A bunch of people who suck their totties down while decrying the "harms" of THC! They are not very reliable, as far as I can see, as good sources for the information. They virally spread that, twisted, "truth" among the citizens of the country.

As can be clearly seen, ours is not the only country where ignorance and politics trumps science and common sense! Although, I wonder how much the policies of the US and NATO have on the, many, countries of the world.

Drug Policy

The main issue is drug policy: what is the best way to control drug use? Too often this gets confused with arguments over the pros and cons of the drugs themselves.
Raising the question of drug "legalization" and control is about drug policy, not the properties of any particular drug. You do not have to be pro-drug to citicize the Prohibition: it is clear to all that, like alcohol Prohibition, it creates more problems than it solves and more irrational drug-taking. It ha failed miserably. Although Prohibition masquerades as control, it produces the complete opposite: total loss of control - and a fortune for ruthless gangsters.
So the question is, regardless of what you think of drugs:
Is Prohibition the best way to control drugs? Would "legalization" and regulation (hopefully stricter than alcohol) be more effective?

Pissheads vs Potheads

NZ has a terrible drinking culture. Young guys get drunk and bash random strangers, people living near universities have bottles thrown through windows, you aren't cool if you haven't drunk enough to vomit out your intestines. Getting NZers off the piss and onto something else would only be a good thing, cannabis is a far safer alternative.

freedom come on piss kills

freedom come on piss kills pot chills

Legalize it

It is a relatively harmless drug, when compared to alcohol. Legalize it.

no shit here

.....LETS FACE THE FACTS...CIGERETS
,HEROIN,COKE,EXTACY,METH,SPEED,LSD,ALL HAVE ALOT OF HORIBLE SIDE
EFFECTS... CAN ANYBODY GIVE ME (5)BAD SIDE EFECTS OF SMOKING OR
EATING WEED THAT ARE 100% PROVEN? ...NO...NOBODY CAN BECAUSE THERE
ARE NONE. WEED HAS BEEN USED AS A MEDICEN FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS,
ITS A NATURAL HERB.THERE ARE NO OTHER NATURAL ILLIGAL DRUGS THAT EXIST.
WEED IS A PLANT NOT A DRUG.IT IS USED AS MEDICEN.THERE ARENT ANY ADED
CHEMICALS TO THE PLANT.IT IS SIMPLY GROWN,DRIED AND SMOKED.CIGERETS KILL
HOUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE A YEAR.PEOPLE DIE FROM SMOKING CIGERETS
TO MUCH.THATS PRETY MUCH THE SAME THING AS OVERDOSING.NO BODY HAS EVER DIED
FROM OVERDOSING ON WEED.YOU KNOW WHY? ITS BECAUSE YOU CANT OVERDOSE ON WEED.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE SOLD IN GAS STATIONS AND GROCERY STORES...CIGERETS
THAT KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EACH YEAR, OR A NATURAL PLANT
THAT HASNT KILLED ANYBODY?.

The point is every day people die from alcohol
and perscription drugs.
No one has ever died from using marijuana.
If you get caught drinking and driving your license is suspended for 30 days, no big deal.
If you get caught smoking marijuana, you are criminally prosecuted, and some people now are serving
LIFE SENTENCES in jail for
smoking a plant.im not saying its hapening in n.z though. If you are against putting anything harmful in your body, then good. because weed isnt harmfull
That's your opinion and your right. so shut up dum ass polititions ,you dont know shit. stop trying to act smart about everything.

its a plant. not a drug
drugs kill plants dont...

When the Law is an ass . . . . ignore it

Who cares what politicians say? If you want to use illegal drugs responsibly, in a way that has no negative effects on yourself or others, just do it - just make sure that you don't get caught by anyone who has the power to take your freedom away, and ruin your family's life by your absence, due to the current drug war laws. It's worked for me for the last 25 years, and I have absolutely no intention of changing it. Why on earth should I? Just because some self-interested group of megalomaniacs who are "protecting the people" say that I should? I'm an intelligent, hard-working, conscientious employee, a *fantastic* father and husband; the positive effects that I get from the occasional use of extracts/derivatives/concentrations of Cannabis, Mescaline, Psilocybin, Lysergic acid amide, Harmaline, Bufotenine and Salvinorin A (at least that one's not illegal here - yet) far outweigh the (for me) non-existent negative effects of physical or psychological harm, due to the fact that I a) grow the plants myself / obtain them from trusted personal sources who use no pesticides (sorry Monsanto, DuPont, Beyer etc) and b) make my own extracts that remove undesirable compounds from the raw material when present, and c) use them in a positive frame of mind, for recreational, personal growth and yes, spiritual (sorry Jim, that's bound to offend you) purposes. Oh yes, and d) I don't distribute them to any minors or non-consenting adults.
To change the drug laws will ultimately require the buy-in of those who have the most to lose - and that means politicians and various other "leaders" swallowing their pride; alcohol and tobacco companies (who generate highly significant tax + GST revenue for government coffers) and gang-affiliated drug dealers (who pay no tax, but no doubt contribute large sums of money to prohibitionist politicians) being willing to partially or totally abstain from generating profits. If, by any chance, anyone should see it snowing in Hell, be sure to put the word out, and then we might be able to think about lobbying to change the law to allow people to actually take some responsibility for there own actions!

Until then, best to keep your nappies on - or at least not let them see you taking them off!

Just like the States

Marijuana usage in the US is similar to that of NZ. However it seems the States have made more strides towards legalization. In some areas (Denver,Colorado specifically) Marijuana has been completely decriminalized, to the point that any amount under 28 grams can not be confiscated by the police and only a small fine is assessed. I feel NZ should try to parallele these laws in hopes that one day marijuana can become a legal substance worldwide

personal experience

personal experience

i have a really addictive personality, but i have used weed casually  once a month or every 3 weeks and am i completely addicted to it, NO. Do i wake up after using it with a killer headache or other symptoms, NO. do i use it responsibly away from the public, Yes. does it effect anyone? No.

the media and ignorant mindless sheep with FALSE statements turned it into a bad thing rather than looking at the positive side. I do understand that this drug can be addictive but not Chemically like cigarettes. But when people use it do they beat there kids and wife, or with create public disturbances or drive a car at a 150 into another car.

Weed doesn't make you see colorful things it doesn't make things appear outa nowhere, It doesn't necessarily make you fail at school, depends on use. I used this when i was depressed and on the verg of suicide when i was in my teens from bullying and the death of someone that was close to me, through this i found some beautiful people i got through college, and now using it casual at uni getting good grades and loving life working with charity groups and with the church, When i was talking to my perants about the drug at the age of 17, they basically said with no knowledge how they saw the drug from movies, that it makes you stupid and will destroy your life bla bla bla, coming from perants that are alcoholics....

I am aware of problems weed can cause as i am really good friends with police and social workers from the church and a legal course i did from uni, and their are problems with this drug, Just like anything, if you have 2 much of it, it will be bad for you, that goes for everything. food, drinks, weed.... etc. In the end of this i am a strong believer in what marijuana can give to the world, But its all about how you use it., where you use it, and how often you use it. there is apart of me that wants it legalized and apart that doesn't for the fact of people abusing it, "sorry for any errors"

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