International Drug Policy Symposium: Cannabis in New Zealand

Speakers at the International Drug Policy Symposium (including political party leaders, United Nations representatives and NGO representatives) discuss the disproportionate legal attention given to cannabis, in terms of the harm in relation to other drugs such as crystal meth. Cannabis is the most widely used drug in New Zealand, and that the majority of users are able to 'have a healthy relationship with drugs'. However the mainstream tendency to lump all drug use together has the effect of making it difficult for people to differentiate the dangers of harder drugs with those of that most people can use responsibly without serious adverse effects. This gives law makers and enforcement agencies legitimacy in the views of large sections of the public to control cannabis with same degree of severity as heroine and cocaine.

Deborah Peterson Small (Break The Chains) points out that it's not helpful to assume that all or even the majority of users are abusers, and that one of the consequences of prohibition is that we don't instruct people how to use drugs responsibly. She says that she prefers to take a realistic approach with her son, wants to educate him about healthy use and encourage him to be open about it. Prohibition takes away the right of parents to have this dialogue.

Attention is also given to the importance of cannabis prohibition across the world for the economic status quo and social control. Having large numbers of people regularly flouting the law gives authorities the power to arrest any of these people if they ever need an excuse for doing so.