Legalise cannabis protesters end in smoke at police station

Protestors rally on the grass outside Parliament in Wellington to promote cannabis law reform. Photo / NZPA
Protestors rally on the grass outside Parliament in Wellington to promote cannabis law reform. Photo / NZPA

A pro-cannabis protest ended outside Wellington Police Station today with protestors smoking joints on the steps and pushing a smoking shopping trolley inside.

The protest, part of the Armistice Tour - a nationwide promotion of cannabis law reform - began this morning with more than 100 people gathered on Parliament's front lawn to promote what they say are the benefits of cannabis over its legal counterparts, alcohol and tobacco.

About 6pm the protestors gathered outside Wellington police station, where the "smoke bomb" was pushed into the foyer, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate Julian Crawford said.

The "smoke bomb" was a shopping trolley full of plastic cannabis leaves with real cannabis burning underneath, he said.

Police confiscated the trolley and escorted the protestors outside of the foyer, Mr Crawford, who is running in the Mana by election, told NZPA.

The protest started to wind down shortly after.

It had been a "vocal" but peaceful protest, Mr Crawford said.

Senior Sergeant Shannon Clifford of Wellington police said no one had been arrested after the protest moved to the police station, but police would be reviewing CCTV footage to determine whether anyone would face charges.

They had also seized the "item" pushed into the station as an exhibit and were investigating the contents of that, he told NZPA,

Despite the presence of police and parliamentary security guards this morning at parliament many of those present were openly smoking cannabis cigarettes.

Spokesman Dakta Green told NZPA cannabis was a more natural, healthier option than other drugs and did not fuel crime.

"You smoke ... a joint right now, you're not going to all of a sudden going to be overcome with the urge to go out and rob a bank or belt somebody over the head.

"There's nothing within cannabis that turns you into a criminal."

The illegality of cannabis was what attracted criminals to use and trade it, he said.

While some people used cannabis for medicinal purposes, Mr Green said he wanted to see full legalisation.

"You cannot overdose on cannabis. There are many people that have died from drinking too much alcohol, one night of heavy drinking and you can die, tobacco will almost certainly kill you.... cannabis has never killed anybody."

More than 400,000 people were part of the cannabis culture including lawyers, judges and teachers, Mr Green said.

That meant they were regular consumers of cannabis and enjoyed using it.

"You cannot keep locking us up when the science says cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco to the individual and to the community."

Those gathered today were asking MPs to make peace with members of the cannabis culture.

Senior Sergeant Scott Miller said today's protest was well organised and there was no trouble.

"Police maintained a monitoring role (during the protest).

"Police, the council and parliamentary security staff had liaised with protest leaders prior to the march."

He said the protesters obeyed all instructions from police and security officers.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Lockwood Smith said the police were responsible for maintaining the law.

Police Minister Judith Collins said she did not notice anyone smoking cannabis outside Parliament but said it was not her place to tell the police how to do their job.

The police would likely have been criticised if they had started arresting the protestors this morning, Ms Collins said.

Justice Minister Simon Power also said he did not know people were smoking up on the lawn.

"I would have thought that given the current legal status of cannabis that that matter may have been dealt with."

He would not be heeding the protesters demands for a cannabis amnesty during the rugby World Cup next year.

- NZPA

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