Police say they do not support the decriminalisation of
natural cannabis despite calls by Auckland's Deputy Mayor
that it's safer than banned synthetic versions.
Penny Hulse said it was time New Zealanders discussed the
decriminalisation of cannabis, much as they had had
discussions on prostitution and same-sex marriage.
But a police national headquarters spokesman said there was
no political will for decriminalisation and their stance on
the issue was clear.
"Police do not support the decriminalisation of cannabis."
Last week Prime Minister John Key told the Herald he did not
support the decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.
On Wednesday Ms Hulse told an Auckland Council committee
drawing up a policy on legal highs that it made no sense to
regulate synthetic cannabis without considering safer
She said she was "in no way pre-empting what that decision
may be" and was "not calling for the legalisation of
marijuana. I never have done, I am calling for a discussion".
Ms Hulse said she had been overwhelmed with support for her
stance about decriminalisation, but noted cannabis was a
"toxic, dangerous drug" that was "not without side effects
and not without negative implications".
"However, compared to the legal highs that's a discussion we
need to have. Legal highs are certainly not safe, nor are
they good for people."
Ms Hulse was backed by AUT University's Professor Max Abbott
who strongly supports the call to review cannabis law.
Professor Abbott, who was previously national director of the
Mental Health Foundation, said natural cannabis was safer
than synthetic versions.
He said the law had failed to reduce cannabis use, needlessly
criminalised people, wasted police and court resources and
fuelled organised crime.
"I don't advocate the use of cannabis and other substances
that cause harm.
"I advocate the abolition of laws that are illogical, waste
time and money, do the opposite of what they were designed to
accomplish, and overall do much more harm than good."
Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer said Ms Hulse had sent out
"confusing messages" and she needed to apologise for
undermining organisations and people's work to educate people
and combat drug use in the community.
Yesterday the New Zealand Herald was shown figures from
Waikato police that showed cannabis was a contributing factor
in more fatal road crashes than alcohol was in the region
The Waikato recorded its lowest road toll with 22 deaths last
year. Five of those deaths had cannabis as a contributing
factor ahead of the three that were alcohol-related.
ESR research shows that around a quarter of all drivers and
motorcyclists killed in road crashes were found to have
cannabis present in their system - with or without other
The research showed cannabis to be the second most common
drug found in blood samples of deceased drivers after
In 2012 alcohol/drugs was a factor in 102 road deaths, and
carried a social cost of $710 million.
Of 1046 drivers who died between 2004 and 2009, nearly half
(48% or 500 drivers) tested positive for alcohol or drugs in
the ESR study.
72% (365 drivers) had either used cannabis, alcohol and
cannabis, or a combination of drugs.
27% (135 drivers) only had alcohol in their system.
19% (96) had used cannabis alone.
28% (142) had used both alcohol and cannabis.
(127) had used a combination of drugs, which may have
included alcohol and/or cannabis.