Pubdate: Thu, 11 Sep 2014
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 New Zealand Herald
Author: Patrice Dougan
Page: A18


Internet Party Leader Says Study Proves Cannabis Use Should Be 
Treated As Health Issue

Internet Party leader Laila Harre is standing by her policy to 
decriminalise cannabis following the publication of a study 
highlighting the damaging effects of regular use on young people.

An Australasian research paper into the effects of cannabis use on 
adolescents was published in

medical journal on Tuesday. It found that under 17s who use cannabis 
daily were 60 per cent less likely to complete high school and 60 per 
cent less likely to gain a degree.

Ms Harre said such research demonstrated the need to decriminalise cannabis.

"It is that kind of evidence that has led us to the firm view that 
cannabis should be dealt with as a health issue rather than as a 
criminal justice issue.

"Those countries which have approached cannabis from a health 
perspective, and have put in place laws which enable cannabis to be 
properly controlled by government, have been far more effective than 
we have in preventing cannabis use among young people."

The Internet Party was in favour of decriminalisation of cultivation 
and possession of cannabis for personal use, and the development of a 
government-regulated production and distribution system, based on 
international best practice and expert advice, she said.

Controls would be put in place to protect young people, Ms Harre 
said, adding that the "objective has to be to reduce use".

HMs Harre and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira this week denied any 
tension in the Internet-Mana camp over the issue of cannabis law 
reform following the leaking of an expletive-laden email from Mr 
Harawira protesting against a planned online advertisement.

Ms Harre said the area where the two leaders shared "common ground" 
was over the legalisation of the drug for medical use, and having a 
review of current drug laws from a health perspective.

The NZ Drug Foundation also backs a health-based approach, although 
executive director Ross Bell said he did not support full decriminalisation.

New Zealand's criminal justice approach to dealing with cannabis was 
"backwards" and obsolete, he said.

"This research shows that cannabis use is problematic for young New 
Zealanders, yet we have quite a limited response to address that."

Paul Rout, chief executive of the Alcohol and Drug Association of New 
Zealand, said the findings showed discussions around law reform 
needed to "look at the full range of implications for all age groups".

Both Mr Ross and Mr Rout said finding a way to encourage young people 
to delay the age they started using cannabis, such as to the age of 
25, would go some way to prevent long-term damage.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom