Cannabis in New Zealand

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A dried flowered bud of the Cannabis sativa plant.

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in New Zealand. In the population of more than 4 million, 13.4% of those between the ages of 16–64 use cannabis. This ranks as the ninth highest cannabis consumption level in the world.[1] The use of cannabis in New Zealand is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which makes unauthorised possession of any amount of cannabis illegal. However, there are some political efforts seeking to remove penalties on its use for those over 18 years of age.

Usage[edit]

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in New Zealand and the third most widely used recreational drug after alcohol and nicotine.[2] The usage by those aged between 16–64 is 13.4%, the ninth highest level of consumption in the world,[1] and 15.1% of those who smoked cannabis used it ten times or more per month.[2] According to a UN study usage by 15–45 year olds in 2003 was about 20% and this dropped to 17.9% in 2010.[3]

A 25-year longitudinal study of "1000 Christchurch born young people between the ages of 15 – 25"[4] concluded that "regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs".[5] The lead author of the study, Professor David Fergusson, stated:

"Our research shows the regular use of cannabis increases the risks that young people will try other illicit drugs. What’s not clear are the underlying processes that lead to this association. Understanding these processes is critical to how we view cannabis."
"If the association arises because using cannabis increases contact with illegal drug markets, this is a ground for the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis. If, however, the association arises because using cannabis encourages young people to experiment with other illicit drugs the results could be seen as supporting the prohibition of cannabis use."[4]

Legality[edit]

Cannabis use is controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal and can result in a fine of up to $500 for possession to a 14-year jail term for its supply or manufacture.[6] Section 7(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 contains a rebuttable presumption against imprisonment in respect of possession offences in respect of Class C controlled drugs including cannabis. This presumption does not apply for offences of supplying or possession for supply. Anyone caught in possession of at least 28 grams of cannabis or 100 cannabis joints is presumed to be a supplier, unless the defendant can prove they are not.[7][8] However, in R v Hansen [2007], a majority of the Supreme Court held that this presumption was inconsistent with section 25(c) of the Bill of Rights Act, which affirms the right of those charged with an offence to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. They also held that it was not a justified limitation under section 5 of that Act.[9] Cannabis is a Class C drug, of which the penalty for dealing can result in a maximum prison sentence of 8 years under the Act. There have been many public campaigns to decriminalise Cannabis but so far none have succeeded. It is generally accepted that the usage rate is high and possession in small quantities may not often be prosecuted. In some cases first offences may result in a formal warning and confiscation by police.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has stood candidates since the 1996 general election.[10] They won 1.66% of the party vote in that election, the largest proportion in its history.[11][12] The party has never won an electorate seat, without which they must receive at least 5% of the party vote to be represented in parliament.[10][12][13]

In 2006, Green Party MP Metiria Turei's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill was drawn from the member's ballot.[14] The purpose of the bill was to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act so that cannabis could be used for medicinal purposes,[15] and to permit the cultivation and possession of a small amount of Cannabis by registered medical users or a designated agent.[16] The bill received a conscience vote at its first reading in July 2009, and was defeated 84–34.[17] All MPs in the ruling National Party voted against the bill, as did the sole members from United Future and Jim Anderton's Progressive Party; while all members from the Green Party and ACT voted in favour of the bill (other than ACT MP Roger Douglas, who did not vote). The vote was split from MPs in the opposition Labour Party and the Māori Party.[17]

Enforcement[edit]

At least four people have died while policing cannabis in New Zealand. Detective Travis Hughes and Christopher Scott were killed when their Cessna 172 crashed in Central Otago while on cannabis reconnaissance.[18][19] Detective Tony Harrod died falling from a helicopter sling recovering plants in Taranaki.[20][21]

During the 2009 Napier shootings, Jan Molenaar fired on three police officers executing a cannabis search warrant, killing Senior Constable Len Snee. People who knew Molenaar described a long-standing, tense relationship between him and the police surrounding the legality of his cannabis involvement, saying, 'Molenaar believed his home was being watched and told friends he was determined to "go out in blaze of glory" if police came to arrest him',[22] and, 'police knew who Molenaar was and knew what he would do in a situation'.[23]

A notable case involving cannabis growing equipment was the prosecution of the owner and general manager of the Switched on Gardener stores following a series of arrests and raids in 2010.[24]

Medicinal use[edit]

Cannabis-based medicines such as Sativex are legally available in New Zealand with a prescription from a specialist doctor, but is currently not subsidized and requires patients to meet strict criteria.[25] Only around 30 prescriptions have been given out over the last 4 years. The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) supports having evidence based peer reviewed studies of medical cannabis.[26] In 2010 the New Zealand Law Commission made a recommendation to allow for its medical use.[27] The NZMA, which made submissions on the issues paper, supports the stance put forward by the Law Commission.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2006). World Drug Report 2006 (PDF) 2. United Nations Publication. ISBN 92-1-148215-1. 
  2. ^ a b Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy. (2007). National Drug Policy 2007–2012 (PDF). Wellington: Ministry of Health. ISBN 978-0-478-30751-1. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Doctors backing medical use of cannabis". Sunday Star Times. 13 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Illicit drug use starts with cannabis". Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago. 14 March 2006. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  5. ^ Fergusson, David; Joseph M. Boden; L. John Horwood (April 2006). "Cannabis use and other illicit drug use: Testing the cannabis gateway hypothesis". Addiction 101 (4): 556–569. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01322.x. PMID 16548935. 
  6. ^ "Possession and use of controlled drugs". Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 No 116 (as at 08 September 2011), Public Act. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata. 8 September 2011. Section 7(2). Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Dealing with controlled drugs". Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 No 116 (as at 08 September 2011), Public Act. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata. 8 September 2011. Section 6(6). Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Schedule 5: Amount, level, or quantity at and over which controlled drugs are presumed to be for supply". Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 No 116 (as at 08 September 2011), Public Act. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata. 8 September 2011. Part 1. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "Chapter 10" (PDF). NZLC IP16 Controlling and regulating drugs (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand: Law Commission. 11 February 2010. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-877316-89-0. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "MMP Elections". Christchurch, New Zealand: Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Summary of overall results" (PDF). 1996 General Election – Official Results and Statistics. Wellington, New Zealand: Electoral Commission. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "New Zealand Election Results". Wellington, New Zealand: Electoral Commission. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "Sainte-Laguë allocation formula". Elections New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Electoral Commission. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  14. ^ "Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill". New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  15. ^ "Explanatory note". Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill 58-1 (2006), Members Bill. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata. 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  16. ^ "Purpose". Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill 58-1 (2006), Members Bill. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office/Te Tari Tohutohu Pāremata. 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  17. ^ a b "Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill — First Reading". Hansard (Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand House of Representatives) 655: 4850. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Plane crash inquest winds up". TVNZ. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  19. ^ "Investigation 05-002". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  20. ^ "Fall kills policeman". Otago Daily Times. 18 December 1990. p. 2. 
  21. ^ "Investigation 90-012T". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved 13 April 2009. 
  22. ^ "Cop killer's last words". New Zealand Herald. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  23. ^ "Napier siege inquest: Latest updates". New Zealand Herald. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  24. ^ "Switched on Gardener turns off to turning on". The New Zealand Herald. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  25. ^ "New Zealand Consumer Medical Information – Sativex, Oral spray" (PDF). New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "Cannabis". New Zealand Medical Association. 9 February 2001. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  27. ^ Controlling and regulating drugs (PDF). Issues paper 16. New Zealand Law Commission. 2010. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-877316-89-0. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]