Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Reject the soft option [ODT Editorial]

Otago Daily Times (22.07.05).
IN ONE STROKE, the Green Party has ensured most thinking New Zealanders, especially parents, will decline to waste their party vote on a group espousing the even more widespread use in society of another mind-altering recreational drug. Clearly, the Greens have learned nothing from the inevitable and predicted results of the reduction in the drinking age: their policy towards marijuana use would, if enshrined in legislation, follow precisely the same course. It is obvious to most adults that making cannabis use even partially legal would send a totally wrong and very confusing message to our youth.
The Greens, however, do not care about confusing messages, nor, it seems about the mental and physical dangers of smoking and drugs to the health of young people. Its MP and cannabis advocate, Nandor Tanczos, says his revised member�s Bill would allow users and growers of small amounts of cannabis to be fined, rather than face criminal conviction. He concedes the Bill does not go as far as he would like, but believes the greatest problem associated with marijuana use is what he calls the �criminalisation� of New Zealanders for smoking the drug.

Therein lies the Greens� misapprehension. The decriminalisation of marijuana use is not the problem at all; smoking �pot� in the face of community sanction is a risk people take of their own free will. What is the problem is the likely impact on society if the State should sanction the open growth, use and sale of another mind-altering and, for some users, dangerously addictive drug. Does the community need it? Does it want it? We think not.

Mr Tanczos appears to believe that by prohibiting its use by people under 18, those so categorised will be less likely to use the drug, and if they do, his response is that old cop-out, �drug education�. Does he imagine, too, that permitting adults to grow up to five �small plants� at home will, by some magical process, ensure younger people will not also try their gardening skills, or will simply steal the drug, knowing that � as with the alcohol law � the absence of determined forces to police the prohibitions will mean 99% of the time they will succeed?

It is extraordinary, too, that his party co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, reckons the health select committee inquiry into the impact of cannabis �came up with very positive results�. For one thing, the committee�s terms of reference were to look at the minimisation of harm of cannabis, not debate whether or not to decriminalise the substance. For another, it did not recommend any change to the illegal status of the drug. It did suggest the State should take the lead in education programmes to alert young people to the dangers of cannabis use, and it asked the Government to consider allowing cannabis to be used as a medicine � the value of which should be determined by scientists rather than politicians.

It also rejected another possible course, that of continuing to prohibit cannabis possession but by civil rather than criminal law, while maintaining that the cultivation, supply and sale should continue to be criminal offences. Any recommendations made to endorse cannabis use are, however, doomed to fail in this Parliament. The Government cannot change cannabis laws because, even if it wanted to, its support agreement with United Future prevents it. Fortunately, none of the other serious contenders for parliamentary representation this election will endorse Mr Tanczos� Bill.

What all candidates should consider, however, are suitable means for testing drivers for cannabis in much the same way roadside tests are made for alcohol abuse, and offer recommendations for far more innovative and sensitive ways to educate and promote the reduction of cannabis use. Adopting the slogan, �smoking is dangerous to health�, would be a good starting point.
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