Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Cop: Time to loosen laws around cannabis

A policeman says cannabis harm was not great especially when compared to alcohol.
A policeman says cannabis harm was not great especially when compared to alcohol.

People using cannabis are "jovial" and punishing them won't stop them using the drug, says a New Zealand police officer arguing for law reform.

A front line police officer has shared his views on decriminalising marijuana in a column in the September edition of the Police Association's Magazine, Police News.

Published last week, the I Am Keen column is a monthly fixture of the magazine for staff to anonymously their views on police operations.

This month, the column is used to discuss cannabis.

"People who are stoned are generally quite jovial and the last thing they want to do is
fight me," said the officer.

"That is a very simple reason for me to not treat cannabis possession with the
same enforcement enthusiasm I once did."

As a new officer, the author thought punitive action was best. But now, thinks differently.

"I have dealt with drugs on an almost daily basis in the course of the job, whether it's
seizing them or dealing with the after effects on users.

"But I often question why we prosecute people who have small quantities of cannabis on them [or other drugs, for that matter].

"Initially, I had a zero tolerance approach. Anyone I found with a tinny would find themselves before the courts. Now, however, I am more likely to tell them to get rid of it in a nearby drain and be on their way."

There was no organisational directive to minimise the penalties for such offenders, the author said.

However, "as individual officers we seem to have taken it upon ourselves to deal with this matter in a more liberal way".

Cannabis harm was not great, said the author, especially when compared to alcohol.

"Yet we readily accept alcohol as part of our daily lives."

People affected by alcohol were often violent and unable to care for themselves.

"Another reason is, does punishing a user of a drug, any drug, actually impact on their decision to use that drug? I don't think so.

"People use drugs for various reasons. The thought of being prosecuted for such
behaviour is obviously something they have considered briefly and then decided not to
worry about.

"Punitive measures often have very little impact on the fight against drug use."

Treatment and education were needed to curb drug problems, not criminal convictions.

"Slapping someone with a criminal conviction for possessing one gram of anything is a
disproportionate punishment."

New Zealand should consider following the example of American states like Colorado that have decriminalised cannabis.

The author also mentioned a number of medical trials and high profile New Zealanders' use of the drug as part of palliative.

"This war on drugs is not sustainable and cannabis reform needs to be at the heart of a wider debate about how we deal with drugs. Making criminals out of users benefits nobody."

A police spokesman said: "The role of police is to enforce the law and the police approach to cannabis has not changed.

"Police officers do however have discretion on how they deal with a range of matters, including cannabis offences, on a case by case basis."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 19 Jan 2017 17:54:55 Processing Time: 693ms