US snowboarders complete diversion

Two United States snowboarders - one of whom is believed to be a former Winter Olympics medallist - who were charged with possession of cannabis in Wanaka have completed diversion.

The pair were stopped by police during a random breath-alcohol check on August 1 and were found to be in possession of cannabis.

Both men, aged in their 20s, were in New Zealand as tourists and were due to appear in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

However, Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, said the men completed the diversion process on Thursday and were granted name suppression.

Snr Const Blackford said the amount of cannabis the pair had was "less than half of presumption".

"Under the Misuse of Drugs Act there's a presumption - if anyone has more than a certain weight, 28g, then you're deemed to be a dealer.

"In this case they had less than half of that between the two of them, so it's reasonable to suggest it was for personal use, as they had said."

Snr Const Blackford said the pair were "entitled to be treated the same as anybody else" and was not aware either of them were anything more than "a couple of American snowboarders".

"It would be totally inappropriate for me to deal with people on the basis of who they are.

"I have to deal with people on the basis of what they've done wrong.

"They were dealt with exactly the same way as anybody else would have been dealt with."

The diversion process enables first-time offenders who meet certain criteria to pay an amount of money to a charity.

By doing so, they can avoid having a conviction entered against their name.

Snr Const Blackford said he was unable to divulge how much the men were required to pay, or which charity benefited.


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