Nandor this morning released a Private Member’s Bill relating to cannabis. Rather than full-blown decriminalisation, the Bill would see instant fines of $100 for possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. This would see cannabis possession for personal use regarded by the law as similar to speeding or parking infringements. However, the penalties for selling cannabis would not change, and the penalties for smoking cannabis with or near kids would be beefed up. Children caught smoking cannabis would be fined, and sent to drug education programmes.
There is widespread agreement across the political divide and throughout the community about the problems of prohibition.
I have spoken to people all over New Zealand about their concerns and I have listened to them. This Bill is an attempt to find a workable solution that addresses the concerns of most people.
Most New Zealanders recognise that a criminal record for the personal use of cannabis is a disproportionate punishment, but many still want to retain a message that cannabis use is to be discouraged, particularly by young people. This bill meets both of those objectives.
Some politicians want to polarise the debate for their own political ends. The Greens are looking for consensus around points of agreement. This is mainstream stuff…
This Bill is also the first time that provisions have been introduced that are specifically targeted at keeping cannabis away from kids. People under 18 caught with small amounts of cannabis will, in addition to the other sanctions, be required to participate in an approved drug education programme. And adults using cannabis within 100 metres of a place predominantly used by young people will attract a more significant fine.
While this Bill is unlikely to be passed before the election, its partial decriminalisation is the position the Greens will be taking into post-election negotiations with Labour.