Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2002
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2002
Author: Jason Baker-Sherman


Two cases heard recently in the Dunedin District Court on the same day ( 
ODT , 18.12.01) illustrated two different kinds of cannabis offending as 
well as highlighting the growing incidence of New Zealanders using it in 
preference to pharmaceutical drugs, and the inability of prohibition to 
successfully cope with this phenomenon. Case one was typical of the visible 
face of cannabis use and the reason why it is generally associated with 
crime: cannabis cultivation was discovered by police visiting the 
defendant's home while investigating a different matter. Having been 
"finally warned" in 1997, the defendant had made lifestyle changes, but 
still preferred to use cannabis for a painful, debilitating illness. He was 
now using "very heavy medication" for pain relief instead.

The second case represented the invisible majority of cannabis users. The 
middle-aged defendant was "a responsible man whose attitude towards 
cannabis doesn't fit in with the rest of his life" making it obvious that 
cannabis cultivation in a private garden was the only crime committed. 
Cannabis was again being used for pain relief in preference to the 
medication, which made the defendant feel funny, prescribed by a pain 
clinic following a previous conviction. Regardless, the judge advised him 
"to look at other areas of pain relief" adding that "while it is an offence 
to cultivate cannabis you will have to respect the law". But how can anyone 
respect a law which is contemptuous of fact, common sense, and the 
well-being and integrity of those who claim benefit from the "medical 
miracle" ( ODT , 7.11.01) cannabis?

Jason Baker-Sherman

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