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New Zealand: Law may go easier on cannabis smokers

A Timaru medicinal cannabis campaigner has welcomed the Law Commission’s proposed changes to drug laws, but says they are “way overdue”.

peter davey cannabis new zealand Peter Davy, 51, was pushed into the spotlight last month after appearing in the Timaru District Court on charges of possession of cannabis, growing cannabis, importing cannabis seed and unlicensed possession of a rifle.

He said that he was the 24-hour carer for his partner, who had advanced multiple sclerosis, and if jailed he would go on a hunger strike.

Mr Davy was remanded on bail until June 22 pending a psychiatric report.

Speaking to the Herald yesterday, he said the Law Commission’s recommendations were “common sense”.

In its review of the 35-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act, the commission has recommended to Parliament that the Act be replaced and that a new regulatory body be set up to govern the introduction of new drugs, particularly synthetic drugs, often known as party pills or “legal weed”.

The commission said it was recommending an end to the sale of those substances until they had been assessed and approved by a new drug regulator.

Without that approval, it would be a crime to sell synthetic psychoactive substances, such as “Kronic” and “Puff”.

These were currently unregulated and created an “unacceptable level of risk to the public”, it said.

The commission also suggested a police cautioning scheme for low-level offending such as possession for personal use, combined with diversion to health information and addiction treatment services.

Commission deputy president Dr Warren Young said the commission wanted more education and treatment to be made available to people caught with small quantities of illegal drugs.

“We are recommending for personal possession and use – that is for drugs that are possessed in small quantities and are not possessed for the purposes of supply or are not being supplied – that we actually have a regime that ensures that we use criminal justice contacts to provide education and treatment.

“That doesn’t mean decriminalisation.

“We are recommending a sort of graduated response through cautions to education and treatment and then prosecution.”

Mr Davy said he had seen the ugly side of cannabis before and he did not want under-18s using cannabis or cannabis circulating in schools.

“I only believe in the medical side of it.”

He said the government could not ignore the Law Commission report, as momentum was building.

“In New Zealand we just need to stop playing catch up. We have an ageing population. More and more people are getting sick … people who used to smoke [cannabis] in their youth are going back to it when they get sick.

“It’s not right for sick people, who have enough to worry about, to have to worry about [getting arrested].”

Mr Davy said he smoked cannabis to “take the edge off” the nausea caused by medication he took for prolactinoma, a benign tumour of the pituitary gland which produces the hormone prolactin.