Which might encourage cops to set up checkpoints and search every likely looking vehicle, or scour student residences with drug dogs in order to fill their ticket quota and bring money in. (That sort of thing has been reported in US states with an infringement regime for cannabis).
I think the revenue from expiation notices in South Australia goes into covering the costs of the scheme, but I don’t know what happens to any surplus.
This 2000 paper looked at the outcomes of the first 13 years and found that cannabis use didn’t rise – but the number of offences processed really did:
Impacts on law enforcement and criminal justice systems: The CEN scheme in South Australia had a major unanticipated effect on rates of minor cannabis offence detection. The number of offences for which cannabis expiation notices were issued increased from around 6,000 in 1987/88 to approximately 17,000 in 1993/94 and subsequent years (12). This “net-widening” is not related to any change in the pattern of cannabis use, but reflects the greater ease with which police can process minor cannabis offences, and a shift away from the use of police discretion in giving offenders informal cautions, to a process of formally recording all minor offences.
Since the inception of the CEN scheme, the rate of payment of expiation fees has remained low, at around 50%. Substantial numbers of minor cannabis offenders received a criminal conviction for a cannabis offence as a result of their failure to pay expiation fees. The burden which this placed on the courts was not as severe as one might expect because significant numbers of those people who were issued with a summons chose the option of pleading guilty in writing and did not appear in person. The vast majority of those expiation matters dealt with by the courts resulted in convictions for the offenders, with similar fines imposed to the original expiation fees, plus the addition of court fees.
There has been strong support by law enforcement and criminal justice personnel for the CEN scheme, and little support for a return to the former approach among those administering and enforcing the system (50). The CEN scheme has proven to be relatively cost-effective (8). The unit cost of issuing and processing an expiation notice, when paid on time, is estimated at approximately $30 per case. The total costs associated with the CEN scheme in 1995/96 were estimated to be around $1.2 million (not including police time in detecting the offence). Total revenue from fees and fines was estimated to be around $1.7 million. The cost-effectiveness would obviously be greater if the rate of expiation could be increased. It was also estimated that, had a prohibition approach been in place in South Australia in the same year, the total cost would have been around $2 million, with revenue from fines of around $1 million.
The number of notices has settled down since, to about 9000 annually. But they’ve got a rather large meth problem keeping police busy.
(Btw, check out the last two comments under that story. What is it with Australians and internment camps?)
I don't think the traffic-ticket model is a particularly good one, but it plainly hasn't been the calamity that Hosking et al imagine in their minds.
Which is what “decriminalisation” advocates wish for here with regards for cannabis.
Sorta. I certainly wouldn’t reject decriminalisation – which means a bunch of different things anyway – as an incremental step. I frequently come back to civil unions > marriage equality as a comparison.
The intriguing thing is that what people did in response to Prohibition has fed into what might turn out to be a very good model for legal cannabis – cannabis social clubs. In Europe, they offer legal supply and distribution (and choice, which is important) without the perils of commercialisation.
Apart from the nonsensical Yardley rave, they also have a self-penned “Stuff Nation” (read amateur) piece today from a self-publicising US narcotics cop, telling kiwis that in his opinion, changing the law here would be a grave mistake and the sky will immediately fall.
Graves is basically channelling pro-prohibition campaigner Kevin Sabet, almost word-for-word in some cases. I have no time for Kevin Sabet.
Good grief, these ones are persistent, aren't they?
Today is a memorable day. For today, three quarters of the way through the Rio Olympics, is the first day that Sky NZ's Olympic coverage website has worked.
All channels, including pop-ups, are streaming live. The quality is fairly Sky Go-ish, but it's there.
I hope so, in this case, but I’m not optimistic. It’s been a hostage to nonsense and arbitrariness since forever. I can fully see people high up making it their only personal contribution, ever, to have frustrated the progress of cannabis reform. Not just high up, but particularly importantly, in the political center. Both Winston Peters and Peter Dunne can make it the cross that they die on and happily go to their graves thinking they did the world a favor.
Dunne is actually the only party leader who has explicitly called for reform. And he’s the author of the really-pretty-good National Drug Policy. He’s changed, man. And Peters has been hot and cold on a referendum but would probably support one if it came to it – especially on medical cannabis, where he’ll be aware of the developing mood in Grey Power branches.
Labour and its leader need to sit down and listen to some public health people.
But the main obstacle remains the National caucus – I get the feeling a lot of them just don’t want to know anything.
In terms of our elected representatives, limiting our criticisms to John Key seems parochially partisan given the cowardice and share ineptness shown by our would-be leaders across the spectrum – for a couple of days last week I was a prospective Labour voter.
Key was the one interviewed all over the place today and the one who said the most untenable things. But most of all, he’s the one who’s spent six years saying his party will never change a word of the drug laws.
That said, jesus, it’s frustrating that Labour can’t manage a more coherent or useful stance. This we-support-a-referendum-no-maybe-we-don’t thing is just embarrassing.
They’ve all convinced themselves it’s a political third rail. Even the Greens’ policy is obscure: nowhere does it actually use the words “legalise” or “decriminalise”.
But I can tell you that if it came to a vote – say, for a private members’ bill – the big obstacle is the National caucus. Most of them are bluntly opposed and don’t care about the evidence
No argument there. I’m not suggesting that cannabis is harmless, just that if you ranked drugs by harm it wouldn’t be at the top.
Although if you include the harm from making it illegal and policing it, that pushes it much higher (but somehow the legal side of this debate never does that).
When the police were allowed to devise the Drug Harm Index, that's exactly what they did: they counted the cost of policing in drug harms. So they more they policed, the more they could claim harm. It was absurd.
The usual consumer protections should apply, just as they do to alcohol and tobacco. But any harm reduction stuff should start with the drugs of most harm.
Well, there are harms from cannabis – but they’re all easier to address when the law isn’t in the way. Māori aren’t only more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for cannabis possession, they’re also markedly less likely to get the help they need. From a Matters of Substance story I wrote last year:
According to Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey 2006, nearly a third of Māori will experience a substance use disorder in their lives. Even after adjusting for socio-economic factors, the burden of these disorders on the Māori population is twice the national average – this is true of no other ethnic group.
The drug that caused the most harm, by far, was alcohol – a quarter of Māori subjects in the survey had experienced an alcohol disorder at the time of being interviewed, but nearly 15 percent had experienced a drug disorder, mainly involving cannabis. Māori men and rangatahi were at even greater risk.
The 2012–2013 New Zealand Health Survey into cannabis use found that Māori men and women were more than twice as likely to use cannabis as non-Māori, Māori cannabis users were 50 percent more likely to report weekly use than non-Māori users and “Māori adults and adults living in the most deprived areas were more likely to report using cannabis in the last 12 months”.
The same study found Māori were twice as likely to experience problems with work or study as a result of cannabis use, 25 percent more likely to experienced related mental health problems and nearly twice as likely to experience legal problems.
The earlier New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey 2007–2008 found Māori were significantly more likely to have used methamphetamine in the past year than non-Māori. It also found Māori were “significantly more likely to have wanted help to reduce their level of drug use in their lifetime but not received it, compared with people in the total population”.
So harm reduction strategies should definitely apply to cannabis. Smoking bad? Tell people that vaporisers are a better option. Someone in your family has a cannabis dependence problem? Tell where to get some help for that – and make sure the help is actually available.
Someone on Twitter mentioned the current drug driving ad on NZ TV. It doesn't tell people not to smoke weed because it's against the law, it doesn't mention the law at all, it says "don't get wasted and drive". It's a really good example of the growing gulf between official policy and practice and the actual law:
The Drug Foundation's Ross Bell on the politics of the the poll.
“It was an old political truth that any changes to drug law was a poisoned chalice, but this poll well and truly busts that myth. There’s a message here for politicians: they no longer need to fear talking about drug law reform.”