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Cannabis Inquiry submissions due by 7 Feb 2001
7 December 2000
Dear friends and colleagues,
Today, December the 7th 2000, leaves just two months to make your submissions (we prefer to call them instructions') to the NZ Parliament's Health Select Committee's inquiry into cannabis.
It is of vital importance that everyone with an opinion on the legal status of cannabis has their say. The last examination of New Zealand's cannabis law was in 1972-3, and that report recommended continuing prohibition "only so long as it is seen to be largely effective". Since then, cannabis use in New Zealand has risen to be one of the highest in the world, with 52% of adults aged 15-45 admitting to have tried cannabis, despite the world's highest cannabis arrest rate. Clearly prohibition has failed, and it is time to try another approach.
Below you will find information to help you put a submission together. Anyone in the world may make submissions, and they can be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions or need any help, please do not hesitate to get in contact. If you can help publicise this inquiry or donate funds to enable us to do that, please let us know.
Please forward this message to everyone you know who may be interested.
HEALTH SELECT COMMITTEE CANNABIS INQUIRY
Get up, stand up for your rights!
Send a submission to the health committee’s cannabis law reform inquiry before 7 February 2001
This inquiry is your opportunity to have their say about what cannabis policy you want. We need to all play our part to demonstrate there is both overwhelming evidence and public support for cannabis law reform.
Inquiry Terms of Reference
“To inquire into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use and harm associated with cannabis, and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis.”
Due Date: 7 Feb 2001
How to write a submission: (it’s easy!)
1) Label your submission as “Submission to the Health Committee’s Inquiry into Cannabis”.
2) State who you are or your organisation is.
3) It can add impact if you outline your interest in / involvement with the cannabis issue.
4) You must first discuss your ideas about the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use and harm associated with cannabis. For instance, more emphasis on education, provision of harm reduction information, eliminating the black market, effectively controlling access to cannabis, reducing the harms imposed by the law itself, providing effective treatment for all who need it, and so on.
5) Then discuss your ideas about the most appropriate legal status of cannabis and how that will advance these strategies. For instance you may believe that cannabis prohibition impedes effective education and treatment, and that cannabis sales should be regulated by law in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco sales. Your submission could discuss your own experience with cannabis, the effect of being busted on your life, cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and hard drugs, civil liberties and human rights arguments, sacramental use, medical marijuana, economics of prohibition vs legalisation, the experience of other countries, etc.
6) It’s a good ideas to run your submission by someone else to check for clarity, accuracy, spelling mistakes, etc. Use facts and figures wherever possible, rather than making unsupported statements.
7) Say whether or not you wish to appear in person before the Committee. The inquiry is likely to travel outside of Wellington to other centres.
8) Submissions should include your full name and contact details, but you can ask for these details to remain private if you wish. You can make more than one submission.
9) Submissions should be posted to: The Clerk, Health Select Committee, Freepost, Parliament, Wellington Submissions can also be e-mailed to: SC-Health@parliament.govt.nz
For more details on submissions, how to write them and what to say see: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/publications/submission/contents.html
Go ahead, take a few minutes and write a submission. Encourage others to do the same, and make sure you do it before 7 February!
Some points you may want to make:
Cannabis policy should differentiate between problematic and non-problematic use: The vast majority of cannabis users suffer no harmful consequences from their decision to use cannabis, other than being branded criminals. Arresting these otherwise law-abiding citizens serves no legitimate purpose, extends government into inappropriate areas of our lives, and causes enormous harm to the lives, careers and families of the thousands of marijuana smokers arrested every year.
• Policies should discourage irresponsible use, including use by adolescents. The best way to prevent drug abuse is with honest, credible and factual drug education. Only when marijuana is viewed from a public health perspective, instead of a criminal perspective, can prevention efforts be effective.
• Prohibition destroys our civil rights and the notion of a free society: Prohibition affects everyone. It violates our freedom to choose, our right to self-determination, and the principles of justice, privacy, property and liberty. Laws should exist to protect these rights, not destroy them.
Cannabis prohibition is ineffective: The ‘Drugs in New Zealand 1998’ report found 52% of New Zealanders aged 15 - 45 will admit to having tried cannabis, and 16% describe themselves as current users.
• Cannabis use rose more than 20% from 1990 to 1998, a period of tougher laws and increased arrests.
• The same survey found that prohibition only works for about 7% of people: of the 48% who have never tried cannabis, only 15% said the law was their reason for not having done so. Of those who had stopped or reduced their cannabis use, only 4% said the law was their reason.
• Prohibition encourages use by glamourising cannabis use and creating a rebellious daring image. Uncontrolled sales make it is even easier for teenagers to buy marijuana than it is to buy alcohol.
• Prohibition itself sends the wrong message - that society is hypocritical, and is more concerned with moral judgments than evidence and fact. Supporting prohibition shows our society is unable to make rational decisions based on scientific evidence and reasoned analysis.
• Prohibition leads to hard drugs: cannabis itself does not lead to the use of hard drugs, but having dealers who sell both often does.
Cannabis prohibition prevents effective drug education and treatment: Open and honest communication is impossible in an environment of guilt and persecution. We need effective education about drugs so that people can evaluate any risks and make responsible and informed choices.
• The 1998 Drugs In New Zealand Survey found that of the four per cent of cannabis users who wanted to seek help for their cannabis use but did not, ‘fear of the law’ was the main reason given.
Cannabis prohibition is expensive: 1997/1998 police annual expenditure on cannabis offences was $21.1 million, doubled the amount spent in 1992/1993. Court and Prison costs are about the same again. Drug education and treatment has been shown to be seven times more cost effective, yet only $1.8 million is spent by the government on school drug education, and there is no funding at all for educating adults or current users. The Mental Health Commission estimates funding for drug and alcohol treatment needs to increase by $48 million to provide treatment for all who need it. This is about the same amount the police and courts spend enforcing cannabis prohibition.
Far more harm is caused by marijuana prohibition than by the use of marijuana itself: New Zealand has the highest rate of cannabis arrests in the world. In 1998/1999 there were 25,293 cannabis offences, (6% of total reported crime). Most of these arrests were for possession or use. Another twenty people every single day are made criminals by this law.
• In 1998, 1794 school children were suspended for drug use - fifteen per cent of all suspensions - and the only category where school suspensions outweigh ‘stand downs’, meaning that for every other form of misbehaviour including assaults and weapons, schools give pupils a second chance instead of curtailing their education.
• Prohibition creates divisions within communities, and alienation and paranoia within many persecuted pot smokers.
• Marijuana itself does not cause crime, but violence and intimidation regulate the illegal cannabis market. Cannabis is now worth so much money that several people every year get killed over it. Prohibition erodes respect for the police and our entire legal system. The lucrative black market creates additional crime and violence in our communities, while the police's emphasis on busting cannabis users diverts their attention away from more serious crimes.
• Maori are greatly over represented for cannabis arrests and suspensions, yet use cannabis at about the same rate as the general population.
Other policies are more effective: The last inquiry into the law was the 1972-3 Blake-Palmer Report that eventually led to the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act. That report recommended prohibition be continued “only so long as it was seen to be largely effective.”
• The 1998 Health Select Committee Inquiry into the Mental Health Effects of Cannabis unanimously recommended “the Government review the appropriateness of existing policy on cannabis and its use and reconsider the legal status of cannabis”.
• The international trend is moving away from prohibition. Most of Europe, plus Australia and Canada base their policies on harm reduction. Even the United States has recently passed laws allowing medical marijuana, while the latest US elections showed voters are tiring of the War On Drugs.
• Ending cannabis prohibition in the Netherlands, Australia and the United States has not led to increases in cannabis use, and has achieved dramatic savings in law enforcement as well as improving the effectiveness of drug education and treatment services.
• South Australian-style ‘Instant Fines’ may just make it easier for the police to bust more people, without doing anything about what really concerns most people - branding cannabis users criminals, the effects of the violent black market and uncontrolled access to marijuana by minors.
• In the Netherlands where cannabis possession and use is not prosecuted 15 per cent of adults have used cannabis compared with 50 per cent in New Zealand; 4.5 per cent are regular users compared with 16 per cent in New Zealand. Teenage cannabis use in the Netherlands is dropping - a result of normalising cannabis use and limiting sales to adults. Hard drug use in the Netherlands has also dropped since they broke the black-market connection between cannabis buyers and hard drug sellers.
• A regulated cannabis market would allow commercial cannabis revenues to be taxed like any other legitimate business. Issuing licenses could allow people who currently depend on cannabis incomes to still grow and sell cannabis, but only as long as they pay their tax and behave responsibly.