Dear Editor, I want to praise and congratulate the two distinguished defence lawyers, Norman George and Mark Short, along with Cook Islands Law Society president Ben Marshall and the Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Sarah Helm.
Who all came out in the Cook Islands News on Saturday in support of the government’s inventiveness to measure public feeling on holding a cannabis referendum.
But, suddenly and unexpectedly, Tina Browne changed course and made a big mistake by needlessly trying to delay the referendum on cannabis, by arguing to try and stall the referendum in order to give an advantage to herself.
Tina, please rethink your statement that a select committee
should carry out public consultations and an awareness campaign, then after
three months the referendum should take place.
Make no mistake, medical marijuana and cannabis laws are not
a political issue but a health and human rights issue.
Norman George put it best, when he said he had seen enough
suffering from our outrageous laws that should have been changed ten years ago.
We can no longer afford any extension of our marijuana laws
that generate some of the justice system’s strongest counterproductive fight
against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol.
An extension on the referendum will only add to the
unfairness of the war on cannabis.
And is an enormous waste of resources, with spending of
millions of dollars and devoting thousands of hours of police work to it over
An extension on the referendum will only add to our people
rotting away in the Arorangi Prison for simple marijuana possession.
And the individuals who are never incarcerated have forced
collateral consequences that follow from arrests and convictions, such as lost
jobs, suspended driver licences, thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and a
criminal history built on minor marijuana convictions that categorise
defendants as "career criminals" for sentencing purposes, thereby
triggering harsh mandatory sentences.
No, we don't need an extension on the cannabis referendum, we
need to immediately fight to implement and protect medicinal cannabis and
decriminalisation laws in our nation, helping thousands of our people obtain
the medicine they need and keeping our people who pose no danger to public
safety out of the criminal justice system.
In addition, let's all support our nation's efforts to tax
and regulate cannabis for the greater good of our Cook Islands society.