NZ Green Party
Drug law reform: It’s not that simple, Simon

Last month I blogged about the utter hypocrisy of one man being sent to prison for possessing cannabis for his own personal use while another, arguably New Zealand’s biggest drug dealer, received a knighthood in the New Year honours list.

Now the Law Commission has issued a discussion paper Controlling and Regulating Drugs (read the summary first unless you have several hours to spare) that argues for an evidential approach to our drugs policy and legislation that is based on the principle of harm minimisation.

Metiria backed the paper’s suggestions yesterday, saying:

Too often drug policy is driven by emotive responses to specific cases. But we need rational drug policy based on evidence.  We need the ability to discuss real alternatives that will keep our communities safer.

We urge the Government to read this report and make workable policy changes. Simply by recognising that people take legal and illegal drugs and that policy should be based around education, prevention and rehabilitation, we have moved closer to solving the problem.

But Justice Minister Simon Power’s response was to back the hypocrisy and stupidity of the current drug laws:

There’s not a single, solitary chance that as long as I’m the Minister of Justice we’ll be relaxing drug laws in New Zealand. … I’m happy to hear what the submissions have to say but I have advised the Law Commission that I have other things on my work agenda.

I wonder if Power read even the summary, let alone the full paper, before saying that.  Sure, the paper recommends some changes that could be construed as “relaxation”; such as a formal caution system and/or an infringement notice system for possession of less harmful drugs, and a licensing regime for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

But it also suggests toughening the current law in other areas; such as removing the distinction between supply and sale and introducing an offence of “aggravated possession” for large quantities of illegal drugs, prohibiting any new psychoactive substance from being manufactured, produced or imported without prior approval, and compulsory rehabilitation for users with chronic dependencies.

Ross Bell of the Drug Foundation has called on politicians to engage constructively with the Law Commission’s report.  It’s disappointing that the Minister of Justice purports to be too busy with other things to give it more than a few seconds’ consideration.

38 thoughts on “Drug law reform: It’s not that simple, Simon

  1. Frog, can you get me some of whatever Simon Power’s on? It seems to create a complete disjunct from reality.

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  2. i just posted this at farrars’ place..

    “..“I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who supported the legalisation of P / Heroin / Cocaine in NZ. ”

    then..of course..you could look at the example of portugal..

    some ten years ago they had major problems with a crime wave from people stealing to feed addictions/the blackmarket..

    ..the portugese govt got bold..

    they announced that in a five year trial..that posession of all drugs would be legal..

    (that’s all drugs..including heroin/cocaine..etc..etc..)

    ..and that medical help would be offered to addicts seeking to cease and desist..

    .(but they wd still hunt the major traffickers of narcotics..)

    the results of this..?

    ..the crime wave ended..

    ..the blackmarket price dropped…

    ..and..

    (making a nonsense of those who would predict streets full of addicts brandishing syringes should the laws be changed/reformed/made ’sensible’…)

    ..the numbers of addicts in portugese society has stayed roughly the same as since ‘the bad old days’..

    ..the five year experiment has been so successful..they rolled it over..

    ..and recently..

    ..just rolled it over again..

    why are these telling reform-examples not even aired/addressed in this law commission report..?..”

    (or..by the green party..?..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  3. The Law needs to urgently move away from possession to trafficking as the primary issue, it would lead to a vast decrease in the problems that the courts and the police face and also a a decrease in a prison populations of people who are jailed for a couple of months for a fairly pathetic reason. A good policy for NZ would be to not pursue minor (class C) possession charges and focus solely on the manufacturers and traders in the goods.

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  4. National, obviously not only thinks that it is a good use of our taxpayers money to put people caught with a small amount of cannabis for personal use in prison (let’s not try treatment or education, that might actually work).

    They also think that such people shouldn’t be allowed to vote if they’re unfortunate enough to be in there when election day rolls around. What is next? The Bill to stop people who don’t traditionally vote National voting? http://www.3news.co.nz/Prisoners-may-lose-right-to-vote/tabid/419/articleID/141171/Default.aspx

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  5. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  6. BB, I assume you meant ‘shouldn’t’
    15% of kiwis admit to puffing grass in the last year. Do you think we should lock them all up? As alcohol is by far the most damaging drug kiwis use, should we lock up the ‘parasites’ who use this stuff?
    I would be thankful if you could tell me some of the “logical arguments” you refer to.

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  7. However I’d still be keen to hear the logical reasons we shouldn’t adopt the Commission’s reccomendations regarding small amounts of cannabis.

    One logical reason to legalise cannabis would be the reduced cost to tax payers through police/court hours chasing 15% of kiwis. Also if it were legalised as you say (not the Commission) it would be a source of tax.

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  8. Yes, funny bro should decide to talk about “logical arguments” in this of all debates when its probably the best example of an issue historically (or hysterically) devoid of logical debate. The facts are staring us in the face. It is only the fear of some and the political manipulation of others that prevents the right thing finally being done.

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  10. Valis, I think this is the sort of logic BB is talking about:

    Me: We should legalize marijuana
    Teacher: No we shouldn’t because it harms people’s brains
    Me: How do you know?
    Teacher: I’ve seen the effect on kids in my class.
    Me: How do you know which kids are using it?
    Teacher: Oh I can tell.
    Me: How?
    Teacher: It’s the ones who don’t pay attention and make no effort to do the work.

    Hat Tip: Nigel Kearney on the Kiwiblog comments thread

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  11. @big bro 3:17 PM

    So at the moment we fund their imprisonment, rather than their rehab. That seems clever.

    And, as phil u says above, there was no increase in the number of addicts when Portugal decriminalised recreational drug posession.

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  12. BB, If cannabis were legalised then I would agree that there would be an immediate increase in the number of people who admit to smoking it. However I am aware of no data to suggest that decriminalisation/legalisation would increase the actual number of users. I would greatly appreciate you substantiating this claim. In the netherlands, it had the opposite effect.
    http://www.news-medical.net/news/2004/05/03/1164.aspx

    BB If you’re truly worried about the tax payer, open your eyes to the watsed money through police and courts and even prison chasing 22% of kiwis! http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/lif_can_use-lifestyle-cannabis-use#source

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  14. @big bro 3:26 PM

    I don’t support kids using any recreational drugs bro. If anything, the penalties for supply (including alcohol and tobacco) to kids should be increased.

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  15. Of course the National government don’t want to legalise drugs – who is going fill up their newly built, highly profitable private prisons if they do??

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  16. gee..bro..that was a really credible link you posted for us..eh..?

    “..Research has been piling up of late..”

    but no links/proof/footnotes..?

    nary a one..?

    meh..!

    c’mon brett..!..you do can do better than that..surely..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  17. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  18. OK BB, what part of the report itself did you fail to read and understand. The scare piece put out by the ACDE has only a passing relationship with truth, and there was never a requirement on our part that we feed it to our children. That’s YOUR imagined scenario. We’d have a lot more control over what they were taking if it were regulated and legally distributed and taxed than we do in the current situation where the profits from distribution go directly to the Mongrel Mob (who are quite efficient at ensuring that there is an ample supply, though the question of exactly what is being supplied remains open).

    I don’t see how you expect to improve the situation BB. You are screwing up by numbers. You can’t even talk to addicts much less talk them into treatment, all you can do is arrest the few you catch. I have never heard of or seen a more dysfunctional approach to this issue than the one you are promoting.

    1. Can you catch all the people who sell cannabis?
    No.

    2. Can you catch all the people who USE cannabis?
    Hell no.

    3. If you could, would you have the jail space for them?
    That’s actually funny…

    4. Do most people who use cannabis have problems?
    No.

    5. Do most people know that government is actively lying about the dangers of cannabis?
    Yes.

    6. Does this affect their opinion of what else the government says about the dangers of other drugs?
    Yes.

    7. Does the state have any control over the distribution, strength, quality or tainting of cannabis with other substances in the current situation where it is wholly illegal?
    No.

    8. Does the state derive any revenue from the sale of cannabis or its products in the current situation?
    No.

    9. Who does?
    The Mongrel Mob, other gangs.

    10. Does the state have any control over WHO can buy cannabis or its products, or at what age they can buy?
    No.

    11. Do the same people who sell the cannabis supply other more dangerous drugs like P or Heroin?
    Yes.

    12. Are the kids who get the cannabis going to see the dealers for the other drugs?
    Yes.

    Lets cut over to the real world BB. Your method doesn’t work. It simply channels money to gangs and supports crime.

    Separating the supplier of cannabis from the supplier of ‘P’ means that there is a lot less contact with potential new customers for that more dangerous drug. It exposes those dealers more acutely. It reduces the funding available for them.

    I don’t know whether you work for the Mongrel Mob or not BB, but your policy seems to indicate that you do.

    BJ

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  19. you are quite a ‘silly’ person..

    aren’t you brett..?

    (n.b..for frogblog readers..big bro outed himself as brett..(sirname/address supplied..)..in a to-do with d4j..at kiwiblog..

    (it was a call to a public brawl/showdown..with the ginga-one..

    ..hilarious..!..watching them posture at each other..eh..?)

    so..’brett’..it is..)

    and i am not ‘telling’ you anything..brett..

    i am pointing you to links/evidence/the work of others..

    whereas you..?

    you link us to a footnote/link-free ‘evidence is piling up..’

    heh..!

    ‘silly’..q.e.d..eh..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

    [frog: Please don't go down that path Phil. I know who big bro is (and he's not who you think he is), but no-one else is going to unless I am served with a warrant or a court order to disclose his identity. Read the policy on privacy. Outing is something that wingnuts like Whaleoil and Clint Heine do - it is not going to happen here, and those who attempt it will be dealt with severely.]

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  20. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  21. He is that tiny fleck of foamy white stuff that forms in the corner of the mouth of someone who needs to lick their lips while they’re speaking.

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  22. Legalise and control supply through licensed outlets and ration cards – that way even those who choose to use cannot routinely use to excess.
    The ones to bring in are marijuana and commonly used and still available party pills (that way those who supply P and such no longer see many of their clients).

    Keeping these drugs illegal is appeasing gangs by offering them a continuing money making venture monopoly – but the tax loss of this welfare to gangs – has the associated the risk of harder drug use by too many.

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  23. BB said, “I (and the majority of Kiwis) are quite happy with the current law”
    Successive opinion polls have found strong support for cannabis law reform. A UMR Insight poll published in The Dominion in August 2000 found sixty per cent supported changing the law. More recently, a TV3 poll in November 2006 found 63% support for legalising cannabis for pain relief.http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0711/S00002.htm

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  24. Drug reform to the extent of Legalizing some variations is a very tricky business for any government because of the tenancy to associate the liberalization of drug use with far left policy. At the present time the only way for any drug reform to be decidedly undertaken would be through a referendum and/or a coalition partner forcing the major political party (whether National or Labour) into allowing the debate to be made within NZ. People Constantly espouse the idea that NZers do not want drug reform, lets let the NZ voters decide

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  25. BB,

    Weed is not perfectly safe but it is far more so than other socially condoned drugs. As BJ points out, making the drug illegal is harmful and removes the possibility of regulation and revenue from the government’s control.

    I do not use weed, I do not use tobacco, and only very rarely do I use alcohol. I find substantial cognitive impairment via recreational substance abuse to be disgusting and pathetic. I am a student of cognitive neuroscience. Am I sufficiently different from phil to listen to? I am not going to go and find studies to cite for the umpteenth time.

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  26. get a grip..frog..

    i said ‘brett’…

    w.t.f..!

    how is that identifying/outing anyone..?

    i did not repeat the sirname used at kiwiblog..

    if i had..u wd (possibly) have grounds to moan..

    ..but ‘brett’..?

    how t f does that breach any ‘privacy-regulations’..?

    meh..!

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  27. If one wanted to reduce actual use of marijuana (especially by those under 21 where the greater evidence of harm is) one would

    1. bring in wider drug use controls.

    Such as requiring those at “licensed places” (and those buying tobacco) to have passed a drug education course before they received a necessary ID card – these cards being suspended for various things.

    2. Allow these ID cards to be used for rationing access to some drugs where posssession is currently illegal – say party pills for those over 18 and marijuana for those over 21. These drugs only being available for supply from licensed outlets (from licensed growers). (This would necessarily limit any other possession to where someone was growing for personal use – and limiting the amount that could be grown in any period).

    Such would diminish the market for those supplying the drugs illegally (now and with any law change). Thus make it harder for those under 21 to access supply, and for those over 21 cap use levels (those caught passing marijuana to those under 21 would lose their right to a card).

    This method would limit access to marijuana for those under 21 more than current law.

    3. As for alcohol, one would require alcohol level checks for entry to licensed premises. And make it an offence to be drunk in a public place – defined by a blood alcohol reading.

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  28. BB

    You seem not to understand me. I gave you evidence of why it doesn’t work. I didn’t say anything about what New Zealander’s want.

    I don’t actually think I have to say anything about it. Every blogger in the country from Right and Left of center has focused on Power Mad Power.

    So we know HE has an unpopular opinion.

    The question you pose is irrelevant to the incorrectness of your answer to the problem. A majority of people once supported slavery, a majority elected the Shrub, a majority supported the bailout, a majority is no indication of correctness.

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  29. bj, big bro seems to support government by opinion poll – all about “what the people want” and nothing about the evidence.

    If you want to go down that path, why have elections at all. Just put a dictator in power, and run the occasional poll which the Government’s public relations machine ensures will always favour their programme.

    That’s exactly what Saddam Hussein did.

    In a real democracy, we elect people to represent us, but in representing us to examine the evidence and make legislative decisions on the basis of that evidence, not on the basis of public opinion.

    And we elect them to change public opinion if that opinion is not supported by the evidence.

    I don’t give a stuff about the shallow “what people want” of radio talkback and opinion polls. I want our Government to do what will promote ecological sustainabilty, economic development, and social justice.

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  30. Simple Simon indeed.

    I can’t believe the attitude of the guy, has he got his head in the sand?
    His knee jerk response on TV made him sound like a dictator, there is to be no reasoned debate with the wanker.

    They are changing cannabis laws at the state level in the US.
    The reason law change hasn’t come down from the top(Federal)is historic.
    We all enjoyed the Elliot Ness TV show, those old enough to have seen it on TV.
    When prohibition ended, the federal agents tasked with prohibition enforcement were out of a job, so they focused their sights on ‘the Devils weed’ (cannabis) to keep them selves in paid work. The modern Federal descendants are the ATF and DEA agencies who have big budgets to enforce drug laws, and will resist any attempt to liberalise the drug laws in the US.
    The relevancy of all this to NZ is the drug laws here were inspired by American influence on the League of Nations (forerunner to the UN) in the late 1930′s to have member countries outlaw Cannabis after they (USA) mistakenly catagorised Cannabis as a narcotic by unscientific observation as to the effects of Cannabis. They used testimony of lay persons to justify the narcotic classification.
    Farmers suddenly found their Hemp Fibre crops outlawed, by federal order farmers were made to grow the crops during WW2, after wars end the Hemp crops were banned again. Talk about hypocrisy?

    The same misinformation is still being propagated today.
    It is idiots like Simon Power who have these ‘cart before the horse’ preconceptions about Cannabis. I.E. they must be bad because they are illegal, not with standing that quiet a few people die or their lives adversely effected by legal drugs.

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