Pubdate: Sun, 27 Sep 2015
Source: Herald On Sunday (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2015 New Zealand Herald
Author: Paul Little


Don't hesitate to medicate," call the spruikers in their white coats 
on Hollywood Boulevard and Venice Beach, California, where doctors 
licensed to prescribe medical marijuana do a brisk trade. Walk-ins 
merely have to turn up and describe some vague pain or high level of 
stress to bag their weed.

The rest of the world seems to be trying to ignore it, but slowly and 
surely the United States of America, until recently leading the 
charge in the war on drugs, is legalising marijuana possession. 
Twenty states, from Alaska to Vermont, have already decriminalised 
adult cultivation and use of cannabis.

If Kaikohe businesswoman, community leader and mother Kelly van 
Gaalen knows about this, I'm sure she would have had a wry chuckle to 
herself about the irony of it all as she was taken away to begin her 
two-year sentence for possession of cannabis for supply, imposed on 
her by Judge John McDonald last month.

Meanwhile, back in the US, guess what hasn't fallen in? That's right - the sky.

According to the US National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana 
Laws, for most states decriminalisation means "no arrest, prison time 
or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount of 
marijuana for personal consumption. In most decriminalised states, 
these offences are treated like a minor traffic violation."

Twenty states is critical mass and the rest of the union is likely to 
follow. Then the US will join countries such as the Netherlands, 
Spain and Portugal where marijuana is legal. But not New Zealand. It 
makes the resistance of our lawmakers to such humane and sensible 
legislation all the more absurd, and the treatment of van Gaalen all 
the more disgraceful.

The recreational advantages of marijuana are vastly overrated. In 
general it makes stupid people stupider. But if Joe or Josephine 
Genius wants to dumb him or herself down for a while, where's the 
harm? And in many of those cases where being stoned makes people 
incapable of speech, that is a positive outcome.

I have many acquaintances for whom I would not only prescribe 
marijuana but pay for it on those grounds.

Then there are the legitimate medical benefits. No one can deny it 
has analgesic effects for certain types of pain that nothing else 
seems to relieve so efficiently. In particular, it relieves the 
side-effects of chemotherapy, but it also appears to have benefits 
for glaucoma, anxiety, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, inflammatory bowel 
disease, lupus and other conditions.

The argument has long been made that legalisation will enable police 
resources to be used in dealing with more serious offences. However, 
the police already exercise a lot of discretion enforcing - or often 
not enforcing - this law. No one knows better than they where their 
resources are best used.

Legalisation would bring to an end the hypocrisy that occurs in 
schools when students found using weed are punished by teachers who 
more than likely indulge in the practice themselves socially.

Legalisation would also remove some of the other anomalies that arise 
when cultivation, possession or use of marijuana is a crime, such as 
triggering a jail term for someone convicted under three-strikes legislation.

Every objection that can be raised, not least the possibility that it 
will act as a trigger to mental illness, is even truer for alcohol. 
Clearly people with this propensity should not consume cannabis. Or alcohol.

This is a medical and criminal issue as well as a social issue.

Unfortunately, as with the case of medically supervised euthanasia, 
our Government and other political parties steadfastly refuse to 
display any leadership.
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