Pubdate: Tue, 16 Aug 2016
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 New Zealand Herald
Author: Nicholas Jones


Prime Minister John Key says decriminalising cannabis would send the 
wrong message to young people - and he isn't keen on holding a 
referendum on the issue.

A new poll shows almost 65 per cent of New Zealanders want personal 
possession of cannabis decriminalised or made legal.

Even more support letting people use cannabis for pain relief - only 
16 per cent want that to be criminal.

Key said yesterday that in his view changing the law would send the 
wrong message to younger people.

He did not back a referendum on the issue, and pointed to the recent 
outcry over shops selling "legal highs" or synthetic cannabis 
products, before the Government stepped in.

Some Australian states have civil fines - similar to speeding tickets 
- - instead of criminal penalties. It hasn't led to cannabis being sold in shops.

"Police always have the right to exercise discretion, and do . . . 
you come back to that question of do we want to see increased drug 
taking in New Zealand? Personally, I'm of the view that we don't," Key said.

The poll's results come just months before the Government begins a 
review of the offence and penalty regime for personal possession.

Debate about cannabis reform has been stirred by former union leader 
Helen Kelly and the late Martin Crowe using the drug for medicinal 
pain relief, and new approaches taken overseas including in Australia.

Kelly, who has terminal lung cancer, told Radio NZ yesterday that the 
Government should act now.

"People who are using it for medical purposes are still getting 
prosecuted in this country."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom