Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Starting the cannabis conversation: The "other" law reform

24 Responses

  • Russell Brown,

    And to answer the inevitable question: there may be a live stream. It's not my department, but I gather it's under discussion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    In lieu of the government getting off their arses and actually doing something about the issue, Police have been practicing selective decriminalisation for years, with its attendant unfairness to certain sections of society. In contrast to that approach comes this little gem from today's ODT.

    Big decrease in cannabis crime

    A combination of good police work and prioritisation has contributed to cannabis-related offences dropping about 50% in Southern courts in the past five years.

    Southern district organised crime team leader Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis said police had made dealing with cannabis a priority, which, along with people having more choice about what drugs to buy, led to the decrease.

    Synthetics and an influx of methamphetamine in Otago and Southland meant buyers needed to decide what drug they would spend their money on, he said.

    My interpretation of what must be a reheated press release is that the Southern Police district appears happy to believe that they're pushing dope smokers towards much worse drugs. Ignoring the obvious stupidity of that policy which flies in the face of global trends, I can't think of a single cannabis consumer who'd touch either meth or synthetics with a barge pole.

    Southern Police seem to be stuck in some alternate reality where dope smokers want "drugs" at any cost. "Just gimme the stuff, man." I'll bet they use Cheech & Chong videos for training.

    What was most ‘‘concerning'' was the 30 modified firearms police had recovered from properties in the past two months where cannabis was found, he said.

    Which only confirms that the continuing illegality of cannabis hands a lucrative business to criminal gangs on a plate.

    Down this way, the Police really don't get it. Yet.

    If streaming is an option for Monday's discussion, I'll be there.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1342 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    My interpretation of what must be a reheated press release is that the Southern Police district appears happy to believe that they’re pushing dope smokers towards much worse drugs.

    That's really quite astonishing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton, in reply to Alfie,

    In lieu of the government getting off their arses and actually doing something about the issue, Police have been practicing selective decriminalisation for years

    I am so in disagreement with this.

    People are still getting busted. Ask them if it is "de facto decriminalised". Use a phone for personal safety.

    There is no way to score if you are new to town. Before prostitution (technically soliciting) was legalised it was easy to find a brothel. They were in the phone book as "massage parlours", still are. There is no equivalent for tinny houses.

    Cannabis is de jure and de facto banned. That is the meat hook reality for dope smokers.

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    Cannabis is de jure and de facto banned. That is the meat hook reality for dope smokers.

    I'm thinking about leaving Western Springs after the 1988 Pink Floyd show, when the mellow mood was abruptly shattered by the sight of an effective holding pen of mostly brown male middle-aged arrestees. My immediate thought was that the only reason that I wasn't in there too was because I wasn't Polynesian.

    In the following week the police touted the high number of arrests for cannabis as some kind of victory in the drug war. Most of those busted turned out to be out of town Maori, fueling the sense that, as someone put it in an opinion piece at the time, you'd have been at far lower risk smoking on your pakeha deck in Freemans Bay than you would if you'd paid your way to a venue where you could be picked off like fish in a barrel.

    I believe that Alfie's right about selective decriminalisation. Seriously, has anything fundamentally changed?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4570 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    "Police have been practicing selective decriminalisation for years"

    I am so in disagreement with this.

    The word "selective" is the important bit. Of course people still get busted. It's statistically more likely if you're brown and almost guaranteed if you piss off a cop.

    There is no equivalent for tinny houses.

    I'm happy to live in a city without any obvious tinny houses, fortressed gang pads or anything which falls into the low rent scum category and has a negative impact on society.

    There is no way to score if you are new to town.

    Anyone who needs to consult Yellow Pages to score in Otepoti is probably living in the wrong city. But hey... I'm from Dunedin, so what would I know?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1342 posts Report Reply

  • Shane Le Brun,

    Huhana is also going as spokesperson for MCANZ. :).

    Since Mar 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Shane Le Brun,

    Huhana is also going as spokesperson for MCANZ. :).

    Ah, good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Zach Bagnall,

    If there's a stream, I'll tune in from here in sunny Colorado.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Sorry, but for understandable reasons, my priority has to be directly getting gender identity into the NZ Human Rights Act. The transgender community should not have had to wait **twenty three years* for that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 479 posts Report Reply

  • Howard Edwards,

    A couple of recent news items about cannabis decriminalisation in some US states:

    1. Teenage use of marijuana in Colorado has dropped;

    2. On BBC radio last night a reporter visited some of the growers and retailers of legal cannabis in Washington state. Because selling cannabis is illegal under federal law, retailers get no tax breaks at the federal tax level. However this also means that big food and pharmaceutical corporate retailers aren't interested in breaking into the local cannabis market so all retailing and distribution is effectively local (which IMHO is a good thing for both consumers and retailers.)

    Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Bill Smith, in reply to Russell Brown,

    "That's really quite astonishing."

    Not really, the Police strategy to control Meth is to crack down on Cannabis users and this seems to be working well for them, as there's now more Meth being used in the south than ever before.

    Meth-Heads are crazy Mother-Fers and in a defacto way, doing the Police"s work for them, as they hunt out Cannabis dealers and growers to do violent stand-overs for their stash of Cannabis, or any money they may have.

    About 6 months ago in Dunedin, there was a group of four such scum using all their known contacts in the Cannabis world to finance their out of control habits and this was due to the fact they had burnt their suppliers of Meth and would go to any lengths to reestablish their supply .

    These four masked men went from house to house beating,torturing by pouring petrol over peoples heads and in their mouths as well as one person having a lit cigarette stumbled out in his eye. Three of these guys ended up in jail for other reasons as they were already on the run,yet no one came forward over their crimes against Cannabis users.

    B-P in Dunedin have done the same beating people for selling Cannabis on their patch, fining them and taking what they want. It is quite ironic that when a B-P gang leader gets caught with a pound of Cannabis in his car with other gang members present and gets 140 community hours as a sentence. This gang doesn't have fortification, yet is located between the two entrances to primary school. This gang was awarded a lawn mowing contract by the Dunedin City Council.

    This doesn't add up when a pillar of society gets two years jail for two Cannabis plants, which only came to police attention after they were victims of a violent home invasion.

    If you are a Cannabis user you're a soft target for both the Police and the criminal underworld I can't but wonder if this is part of the Police's crime-stoppers force, or another twist on one of their Mister Big operations..

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Howard Edwards,

    However this also means that big food and pharmaceutical corporate retailers aren't interested in breaking into the local cannabis market so all retailing and distribution is effectively local (which IMHO is a good thing for both consumers and retailers.)

    That's a very interesting point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    I am so in disagreement with this.

    People are still getting busted. Ask them if it is “de facto decriminalised”. Use a phone for personal safety.

    No, I'm not saying people aren't getting busted. And the disproportionate impact of the law on Maori seems to be as much of a factor as ever (regrettably, race is still a key factor in who gets busted even in Colorado).

    But the number of arrests and prosecutions for use and possession has been falling significantly, while use and possession haven't. Something is happening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Howard Edwards,

    this also means that big food and pharmaceutical corporate retailers aren't interested in breaking into the local cannabis market so all retailing and distribution is effectively local

    Cue visiting tobacco company suit claiming they are just another FMCG wholesaler. #pffft

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19515 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But the number of arrests and prosecutions for use and possession has been falling significantly, while use and possession haven't. Something is happening.

    It is not any sort of decriminalisation.

    Alfie should post the phone numbers of his dealers.

    But of course he should not. Cannabis is very much illegal and criminal

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    Alfie should post the phone numbers of his dealers.

    Sweet Jesus! “Dealers” with its gang implications is such an emotive word and not one I’d ever use myself. By the time you reach my age, you might be lucky to find yourself a minor member of a buyers’ club which supports a valued cottage industry. The world of dealers and tinnie houses remains a complete mystery to me.

    As I said earlier Worik, if your main problem is an inability to score in a university town, you really do need to widen your circle of friends.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1342 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    As I said earlier Worik, if your main problem is an inability to score in a university town, you really do need to widen your circle of friends.

    I found myself disagreeing with you, but then your patronising tone really won me over.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 524 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    It is not any sort of decriminalisation.

    Nearly half of all people apprehended and processed for drug offences in Northland last year weren't charged with a criminal offence, and nearly all of them of them received pre-charge warnings. The warning doesn't constitute a criminal record and isn't viewable by employers etc.

    PCWs were introduced as a Police initiative in 2010 to cut the number of petty cases going through the courts. There are about 1300 of them for drug offences every year. The cops (bizarrely) don't record diversions, but they seem to be increasing for drug offences too.

    Of course that's not ideal – as I noted, it's selective and that's dangerous. We still also see the high-PR-value stunts like this year's cannabis recovery operation, which ruin people's lives.

    It's emphatically not a substitute for reform of the law, but I do think it's the police doing what what the politicians lack the moral courage for.

    The thing the police can't do, of course, is actually change the law – so, as the Law Commission noted, there is no statutory basis for either PCWs or diversion. The LawComm proposed a form of decriminalisation, in law, based on "mandatory cautions", which you could collect a few of (more for Class C drugs) before the prospect of being charged. It's a pretty weak form of decriminalisation, but even that was rejected by the Key government. (The cops didn't like it because they like the control implicit in exercising discretion.)

    So I'm happy enough with the phrase "de facto decriminalisation".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Over half of all people apprehended and processed for drug offences in Northland last year were charged with a criminal offence

    I bet to them, "defacto decriminalisation" is as meaningless as it is to me.

    So I'm happy enough with the phrase "de facto decriminalisation".

    That is nice, be safe and be nice to police officers, because you have to.

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    That is nice, be safe and be nice to police officers, because you have to.

    I try and be nice to everyone!

    But let’s try this: in the past five or six years, Police have been using their discretion to decline to bring a criminal prosecution against a growing number of people they arrest for minor drug offences. They appear to be doing this independent of any government direction, or the law.

    Happy?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22533 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Craig Young,

    Sorry, but for understandable reasons, my priority has to be directly getting gender identity into the NZ Human Rights Act. The transgender community should not have had to wait **twenty three years* for that.

    Good on you Craig. No doubt you will have observed the number of articles published here expressly dealing with transgender rights since you raised the issue five years ago is zero. What you may have well noticed in their place was an abundance of heated threads discussing issues of rape and violence within a 99.9% exclusively heteronormative and cisnormative frame. And as I’m sure you’re well aware, without visibility battles like this go nowhere, so it’s important to note that in the intervening period New Zealand has gone from a world leader (according to Georgina Beyer 2010) in transgender rights and protections to well outside the top 10 as other countries have granted their transgender communities better legal recognition.

    Obviously platforms like Stuff.co.nz have served up an array of testimonies from “functional” trans people often endowed enough to gain limited recognition

    I’m happy that, at least in principal, medical transition is covered by public health. I have however had a hard time trying to get access to this theoretically covered medical care – from a GP who wants nothing to do with me anymore, to months waiting for appointments, to referrals which were never put through by hospital doctors.

    I gave up and went private

    So while on the surface things appear rosy, it never feels good bursting someone’s bubble and this can both drive the voiceless deeper or it can strengthen resolve to find an ear in certain nooks without derailing threads..

    Rerailing this. With regards to cannabis, I’m proud to admit that I partake, but unfortunately unlike most of the readership here, I’m not flush enough to actually afford to purchase cannabis – luxury – so I have had to pull up my sleeves, apply a bit of elbow grease and get my hands dirty from time to time – if and when I’ve decided I might want some – 6 months in advance.

    Unlike your average purchaser the risks are obviously far greater, because the charge for supply is not contingent on actually selling the plant but on the quantity one is in possession of, exacerbated by the ultra-dodge prison/transgender issues.

    So for the obvious reason that I violate one law – I strongly support Russell and others’ activism on this issue. But a look in on transgender and intersex actual human rights – I can’t say I’d complain.

    If the Government were to decriminalise “possession of cannabis” but then repurpose these police resources into further clamping down on suppliers and minorities – I wouldn’t be at all surprised – because if we’re not quibbling over fines – in the recreational branch of the industry – that’s not so far from the reality.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2155 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Of interest...

    Govt to change policy on medicinal cannabis

    The Government will announce tomorrow that it is removing a significant hurdle to getting access to medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

    It is understood doctors will be given the right to approve patients' requests for cannabis products, rather than Government ministers.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1342 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Alfie,

    It’s promising, but again disappointing that Labour continues to trumpet its faith in age regulation by the black market.

    "I have a personal view, as do many colleagues about wider liberalisation of broader cannabis use, and that issue is about the risk of access to younger people and the public health issues that go with cannabis use, by people who are not fully developed and not fully mature.

    “Understanding that the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties, more access for people around that age creates a public health risk."

    We know about the risk of access to younger people because younger people have access.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2155 posts Report Reply

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