Pubdate: Fri, 11 June 1999
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Page: A5
Copyright: New Zealand Herald


WELLINGTON - The Government's policies on cannabis are not working and
should be reviewed, says a parliamentary committee.

The health select committee is also repeating its call for the
Government to reconsider the illegality of the drug.

A report it released yesterday follows last year's inquiry into the
mental health effects of cannabis.

That found that moderate use of cannabis did not harm most people,
although it did not deny the serious impact the drug could have,
particularly on schizophrenics or those with mental illnesses.

After the inquiry, the committee recommended that the Government
review its policy on cannabis and the legal status of the drug.

Yesterday, chairman Brian Neeson restated that position after
considering a petition urging decriminalising the recreational use of

Mr Neeson said it was clear that Government policies of prohibition
were no great deterrent to using cannabis.

If the drug did cause harm to a small proportion of users, it was
better that they had access to treatment without fear of the stigma of

"In light of the evidence we have heard on the effects of cannabis and
the high rate of use in New Zealand, the effectiveness of the current
policy requires examination."

Mr Neeson, who does not personally favour liberalisation, said
yesterday that while the Government had no plans to review the legal
status of cannabis, that did not mean it was not being talked about.

"What we've got to have a look at is the use of it, the recreational
use of it, the sociological implications of cannabis..."

"We have to understand that there is an epidemic out there as far as
the distribution of cannabis is concerned..." he said.

"The Government itself and the country and the community have to
decide exactly what they want to do from now on."

- ---
MAP posted-by: Patrick Henry