Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2001
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2001
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Headline supplied by newshawk


THE NEW Zealand Medical Association testified before a parliamentary 
committee that the partial decriminalisation of cannabis would be 
acceptable, providing it could be shown no increased harm would result ( 
ODT , 9.6.01). Decriminalisation is a step in the right direction, but it 
does nothing to undermine the black market in illegal drugs. There is a big 
difference between condoning cannabis use and protecting children from 
drugs. The thriving black market has no age controls, making it easier for 
kids to buy cannabis than beer. Although cannabis is relatively harmless 
compared to most legal drugs - the plant has never been shown to cause an 
overdose death - cannabis prohibition is deadly. Illegal cannabis provides 
the black market contacts that introduce youth to addictive drugs like 
heroin. Current drug policy is a gateway policy.

Like alcohol prohibition once did, cannabis prohibition effectively 
subsidises organised crime, while failing miserably at preventing use. 
Decriminalisation acknowledges the social reality of cannabis use and frees 
users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's really 
needed is a regulated market with age controls. As counter-intuitive as it 
may seem, replacing cannabis prohibition with regulation would do a better 
job protecting children than the never-ending drug war.

Robert Sharpe Programme officer,

Lindesmith Centre Drug Policy Foundation, Washington DC
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