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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974



Although the submissions reveal a predominantly moderate, rather than radical attitude to drugs by NZUSA, their attitude to cannabis is carefully thought out and realistic.

NZUSA feels that possession of the drug for private or personal use should be legalised. Supplying cannabis to another individual, providing it is for that individual's private or personal use, and there is no material gain for the supplier, should also be legalised'

The submissions recommend that individuals over 18 be allowed to cultivate a limited quantity of marijuana for their own use. Any sales of the drug would be controlled exclusively by a state agency.

Marijuana and its use are compared to alcohol NZUSA finds it hypocritical for society to treat marijuana, alcohol and tobacco and the respective people who use them, as differently as they have done in the past and as proposed in the new Bill. The submissions suggest that the basic difference between alcohol and marijuana is that while alcohol is socially acceptable (to those who make the laws) marijuana is not. The injustice is illustrated by the law allowing individuals to brew beer or more wine for their own consumption, but awarding up to seven year's imprisonment under the new Bill for the cultivation of a cannabis plant.

The Blake-Palmer report claimed that one non-pharmacological reason for treating cannabis and alcohol differently stemmed from its social context: "Marijuana is not only a drug it is also a symbol".

NZUSA, however points out that "alcohol is not only a drug either. It is part of the fabric myth which swathes New Zealand consciousness. This it does not only by providing a readily available means of sedation and escape, and not only by blunting the individual's critical appraisal of society. Alcohol is a multi-faced mediator in our culture. It provides definitions of, and means of colloquially assessing, concepts such as maturity, manliness, femininity, sophistication, affability, hospitality, social standing, good living and life-style.

"Advertising ruthlessly fosters and exploits these concepts, with few and ineffective restrictions imposed by the Government to hinder them. Brand names of alcoholic drinks are still subtly advertised on radio in spite of a supposed ban; and retail outlets of alcohol are openly promoted on the same medium. A brewery strives to establish brand allegience among teenagers by peddling a soft drug known as hop beer."

NZUSA also points out that many of the old myths about the "dangers" of marijuana have been shattered. The Blake-Palmer Report, for instance, had stated that "the belief that cannabis users inevitably progress to 'hard' drugs like heroin has been...thoroughly exploded"; that "few of those who take cannabis become heavy users of even that drug" and that "the once widespread belief that cannabis users are liable to commit violent or aggressive acts has not been supported by careful studies of various types; the users are indeed more apt to act "cool" than tough"."

Cartoon of a man smoking

Further the submissions contend that the use of marijuana is an established social phenomenon in New Zealand. The drug's use has extended to school pupils, not as a result of "pushing" but the inevitable adoption, of a drug widely used in society.

The use of the drug, though generally confined to the young, now extends into the mainstream of society.

The criminalisation of cannabis use has been ineffective, failing to prevent usage, and counter-productive. It has contributed to the disrespect for the law and the police, especially among the young. This has been exaggerated by the tactless and excessive behaviour of individual members of the police force — harassment of drug users and suspected drug users for non-drug offences. The credibility of government agencies has also been undermined by the false and exaggerated claims that have been frequently made by these agencies about Cannabis. For example the Customs Department booklet "Narcotics — you can help us beat the Drug Traffic" speaks about "marijuana addicts".

Marijuana "addicts" are presumably included in the ringing affirmation at the end of the booklet: "A person involved in the illegal drug traffic is unworthy of any consideration, sympathy or loyalty."

NZUSA recommends that a separate Cannabis Bill be introduced to regulate the production, supply and use of Cannabis.

The association of cannabis with dangerous substances (in the Drug Bill) is inappropriate. It merely perpetuates the widespread confusion and misinformation about the real, relatively innocuous nature of the drug.

Legalisation of cannabis as NZUSA says "would enable it to be separated off from other serious social problems [unclear: concainning] the 'hard' drugs and would encourage more responsible attitudes towards them."