Key defends stance on drug report

Prime Minister John Kay has defended the Government categorically ruling out relaxing drug laws, saying doing anything else would send the wrong message to children.

The Law Commission yesterday called for less emphasis on punishing people for personal possession and said cannabis should be allowed to be used for medicinal purposes.

Justice Minister Simon Power immediately ruled out any liberalisation before the commission received public submissions on the discussion document.

"There's not a single, solitary chance that as long as I'm the Minister of Justice we'll be relaxing drug laws in New Zealand," he said.

Mr Key told Radio Live today that reform was not the agenda.

"No one is probably arguing necessarily that if someone uses a small amount of marijuana that that is necessarily of itself the end of the world," Mr Key said

"But, and I have to acknowledge because its factually correct that a lot of New Zealanders do, but what's the message we want to send youngsters? And the message is don't engage with drugs."

Marijuana was often a stepping stone to more aggressive drugs such as P or cocaine, he said.

Mr Key said young people should get involved in sports, culture or drama and not dabble in drugs.

The Labour Party said the report, commissioned by the previous government, was well-researched and impressive.

"We must be hard-line on those who deal in hard drugs," said justice spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel.

"There's no argument about that, but the paper also identifies a range of issues that demand wide debate, including resourcing of treatment and assessment options for people facing drug dependence."

The Drug Foundation called on politicians to "engage constructively" and said the commission's proposals were a major step towards modernising drug laws it called "obsolete".

"Let's not be scared by the commission's proposals," said the foundation's executive director Ross Bell.

"They are not radical, but they do reflect an up-to-date understanding of what New Zealand needs to find a better balance in reducing drug harm and helping those in need."

The commission said it agreed with vigorous law enforcement on commercial drug dealers, but there should be less emphasis on punishment of personal possession and use, and more emphasis on delivering effective treatment to addicts.

Its report said there was no doubt alcohol and illegal drugs caused harm to the community, but "while the harms and costs associated with alcohol are typically understated and misunderstood, those associated with illegal drugs are often generalised and overblown".

It said the focus of drug laws should be on preventing the harm to others from drug use, not on preventing self-harm or reflecting moral values.

"The (Misuse Of Drugs) Act seems poorly aligned with the policy platform of harm minimisation," it said.

"Its focus is on controlling the supply of drugs by eliminating their illegal importation, production and supply.

"The use of drugs, even by those who are dependent on them, is largely treated as a matter solely of criminal policy rather than health policy. It should, however, be the concern of both."

The commission said evidence suggested that drug regulations neither increased nor decreased drug use, and that for personal use the law should best focus on dealing with the harm drug use caused.

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There are some interesting points here, introducing young people to sports and various hobbies when they are students can really help make sure they steer clear of Drug problems and ending up in a Drug Rehabafter leaving school.

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