Source: Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) Author: Claire Guyan Page: 1, Front Page Contact: Website: http://www.evpost.co.nz/ Pubdate: Monday, 30 March 1998 Note: The report is online at: http://www.nzdf.org.nz LEGALISE DOPE, REPORT URGES Cannabis should be legalised and the Government should take control of its market to protect public health, a high-powered group of doctors and professionals says. The Drug Policy Forum Trust today released a report which recommends the Government regulate and tax cannabis. It says this would earn the country up to $50 million a year in taxes. The independent group says the health effects of cannabis are no worse than alcohol or cigarettes and wants them treated equally - with similar age restrictions and legal penalties. It says this would protect public health, allow for cannabis education and treatment programmes, minimise cannabis abuse and eliminate the black market. The trust, headed by health researcher and policy analyst David Hadorn, says it is dedicated to ensuring the drug policy debate is based on evidence and logic, not emotion and politics. It issued a discussion paper in July and invited public comments. Today's report is its final recommendation. Dr Hadorn said New Zealand was one of the only countries not to have reviewed its drug laws in recent years. The Government has not yet debated the issue. Dr Hadorn said that attitudes toward cannabis were shifting worldwide. In Australia, police had conceded laws were not working and the British House of Lords was launching an inquiry into the case for decriminalising cannabis. "These events, combined with further international moves to modernise cannabis policy . . . should encourage the New Zealand public and its politicians to accept that the time is right to revise our cannabis laws," the report says. The trust wants a Tobacco, Alcohol and Cannabis Authority set up to regulate the three substances. It would issue licenses for production and cultivation and would oversee packaging, distribution and quality control. It would also set age and point-of-sale restrictions. Home production of all three substances should be allowed for adult personal use. The report says the use of cannabis by adults in New Zealand is ingrained, with an estimated half of all people aged 15-50 having tried it. "Nothing short of scorched-earth defoliation will ever rid New Zealand of cannabis". The report says current laws have not reduced harmful drug use, whereas experience with tobacco use and drink-driving rates show social sanctions can work. Associate Health Minister Roger Sowry was not available for comment today. The report is available on the internet: www.nzdf.org.nz or by sending a self-addressed A4 envelope to the trust at PO Box 12199, Wellington.