I was recently introduced to someone as the Green Party candidate for Invercargill and was greeted with laughter and a comment around legalizing cannabis. This response isn't nearly as common as it used to be but still reflects a commonly held Green Party myth.
In actual fact legalizing marijuana has never been a policy of the Green Party. We see a drug free life as the most preferable and healthiest choice but accept that recreational drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are an accepted part of many people's lifestyles. There are also many who find health benefits from the use of controlled drugs and despite some support from medical research there is no allowance under existing laws to distinguish between different kinds of drug use or the levels of harm involved. Billy McKee's case is a good example of the current flawed approach.
Given the reality of our society and the harm caused by the misuse of both recreational and prescription drugs the most important goal should be to minimise harm above all else. It is concerning when current law often has the opposite effect and lacks consistency in how it labels and responds to drugs in common use.
The Law Commission's recently released report "Controlling and Regulating Drugs: A review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975"is long overdue and has some excellent proposals, many in line with Green Party policy. It seems bizarre that when we have such a learned and informed response to managing the misuse of drugs that it should be largely ignored in favour of silly and punitive approaches to managing the peripheral elements of recreational drug use. Banning the importing or sale of pipes or other utensils, that could potentially be used for consuming a controlled drug, is a little like banning the use of bottles to curb the consumption of alcohol.
The rising awareness and public concern over the legally, but unregulated importation of Kronic and other synthetic concoctions appears to give a mandate for knee jerk responses. Using flawed process Peter Dunne has added another amendment that would allow the minister to gazette pretty much any substance that could result in harm, making it a class C substance. There would be no public scrutiny or medical/scientific advice necessary.
Kevin Hague spoke to the third reading of the Misuse of Drugs and Amendment Bill, his articulately presented views brought some commonsense to the debate. However, it looks as though commonsense and following good advice will play no part in the progression of this bill.