Tag Archives: Law

Don’t Lose Sight of the Cannabis Vote

Let’s not turn a blind eye to the cannabis referendum, even though it may not feel significant amid Covid-19.

I for one am delighted to see the Government has released the final version of the bill we will all vote on in the referendum on September 19 – and am also delighted to see its aims are clearly stated and focused on a health-based harm reduction approach to cannabis. 

That the team behind the cannabis referendum, as well as the ministers involved, have been working away at this, despite the advent of Covid-19, demonstrates the importance of this issue for New Zealand. Although we are preoccupied with the coronavirus on a number of levels, other important issues, such as this, should also be given some of our attention.  

Why, I hear you ask? Why do we need to give this our attention? In the middle of a pandemic? Well, even in the middle of a pandemic, critical issues that affect us don’t go away. 

Many of us have already been affected by the prohibition of cannabis. 

During my research, I talked to New Zealanders living with the stigma of drug-related convictions. Consider the person who said, “I was broken for quite a long time [after being convicted of cannabis possession], I was always living with that in the background.” Or the person who noted that after being convicted it was “just shame, you just carry this terrible shame”. Or the person who said of the stigma of cannabis-related convictions, “I just felt depressed and anxious and stressed out, I didn’t need that sort of negative attention.” Or another person about trying to move on after getting a cannabis conviction: “Straight away they ask you if you have a police record and it’s not hard for them to check up on you.”

Continue reading Don’t Lose Sight of the Cannabis Vote

Covid Criminalisation

Angus Lindsay

Although there to protect us, many of the Government’s recent measures have widened the net of criminal justice. When we move into a post-Covid world, we should be critical of lingering policies that may remain.

Because of Covid-19, New Zealand police have been granted what have been described as unprecedented powers under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (2002), the Health Act (1956) and the Summary Offences Act (1981).

Under these Acts, everyone is to be isolated/quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for ‘essential’ movements. This poses a significant change by temporarily criminalising everyday actions and activities such as exercise, seeing loved ones, road use and travel (except for ‘essential’ purposes), and buying consumer items like gaming consoles or sporting equipment even if contactless delivery is assured (yet alcohol and some designer clothes shops have skirted these regulations).

To ‘protect’ the public, police are able to do “anything reasonably necessary, including the use of force, to compel, enforce, or ensure compliance”. This includes directing any person to stop an activity seen to possibly contribute to the emergency.

Continue reading Covid Criminalisation

Myths and Misinformation about Cannabis Legislation (or why you should vote yes in the referendum)

I was recently invited to Whanganui by the organisers of the Science Forum there – they wanted a panel of experts with knowledge about drug research to discuss the cannabis referendum.

There was an audience of just over 200 people, indicating how keen people are to get information about the referendum. This was made abundantly clear in chatting to people afterwards – all they want is clear information about the referendum, what it might mean, how will it be done and what the effects might be.

They had been confused by claims in the media that cannabis causes psychosis and that legalisation will be a ‘free for all’ with increased use by young people. Many were surprised to hear what us speakers had to say: that legalisation is not the horror story they had been led to believe.

Continue reading Myths and Misinformation about Cannabis Legislation (or why you should vote yes in the referendum)

Drug Reform Bill: Glimmer of hope or ‘get tough’?

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill has passed its final reading and will come into law in the near future. More than anything, I want to join in the chorus of positive sentiment around this bill, particularly because people and organisations I admire and am inspired by have encouraged it through its at times rocky ride in parliament. But I just can’t be wholly positive about the changes the bill will engender.

Let’s also be crystal clear that the bill does not decriminalise all drugs, as some online enthusiasts have suggested; it legalises police discretion in deciding whether to prosecute and directs police to use a health-based rather than a criminal approach.

This is not the same as decriminalising all drug use. And herein lies one of the problems – embedding discretion further into our justice system will deepen existing inequalities. The use of discretion will continue to over-police already stressed and marginalised communities often subject to the harshest policing practices.

Most of the proposals in the bill add to the failed, outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and the ineffective “war on drugs”: the reclassifying of AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as class A drugs; the creation of temporary class orders, all enacted as “get tough” measures to address the harms from synthetic cannabinoids.

Unfortunately, these kinds of measures do not work in effectively addressing or reducing the harms from drug use, nor do they effectively reduce or address the demand for drugs like synthetic cannabinoids. “Getting tough” on drugs and those who supply them has not helped us in over four decades of the “war on drugs” – it has filled prisons with low-level users and dealers, often suffering from addictions themselves. Continue reading Drug Reform Bill: Glimmer of hope or ‘get tough’?

Reducing Climate Harms

By David Tong – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Submission on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

This submission is from Professor Elizabeth Stanley and Dr Sarah Monod de Froideville. We are criminologists from the Institute of Criminology, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

We support the intent of this Bill to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing New Zealand’s level of greenhouse gas emissions. We acknowledge the progressive elements in the Bill, including the establishment of an independent commission and the commitment, outside of this Bill, to achieving economy-wide reductions at a maximum level possible.

However, there are many elements in the Bill that are of concern. Specifically, the Bill does not appear to have considered the risks of climate change associated harm. Continue reading Reducing Climate Harms

Drug Law Reforms

Fiona Hutton

Well, what a year 2018 was in terms of drug policy and drug law reform, both in New Zealand and farther afield.

New Zealand saw the debates surrounding the cannabis referendum intensify. A bill to allow terminally ill people to access medical cannabis recently passed. The Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry, He Ara Oranga, called for the decriminalisation of illegal drugs to address problems relating to addiction and mental health. The government made new announcements around synthetics.

Elsewhere, more US states have legalised the sale and recreational use of cannabis, and in October Canada legalised it too. In places that have enacted wide-reaching, much-needed drug law reform, there have been no dramatic increases in the use of cannabis or other drugs, especially among young people. All very encouraging for New Zealand as we look towards possibly wide-reaching, much-needed reforms of our own approach to illegal drugs. Continue reading Drug Law Reforms

Seeking Justice for Torture in Abu Ghraib

Abu Ghraib prisoner, CC wikimedia.

The Al Shimari v CACI case

In 2008, the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) brought a federal lawsuit – Al Shimari v. CACI . This lawsuit addresses the torture of four Iraqi men, held in Abu Ghraib prison during 2003-2004, by the private contractor CACI International Inc. and CACI Premier Technology Inc. The case is the last Abu Ghraib case in the system and, if it goes to trial, will be heard in the midst of the Trump Presidency.

The CCR assert “that CACI directed and participated in illegal conduct, including torture, at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where it was hired by the U.S. to provide interrogation services”. The case covers violations of US and international law – including war crimes, sexual assaults and tortures.

The four victims  – Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari; Taha Yaseen Arraq Rashid; Asa’ad Hamza Hanfoosh Zuba’e; Salah Hasan Nusaif Al-Ejaili – were all released without ever being charged of any crime.  They all continue to suffer mental and physical injuries from their torture that included electric shocks, food deprivation, being threatened by dogs, stress positions, beatings, sexual assaults, sensory deprivation, and being kept naked.

Continue reading Seeking Justice for Torture in Abu Ghraib