Cannabis policy in Australia and New Zealand

S Abel
Drug and Alcohol Review 1997, 16 (4): 421-8
This paper describes and compares current developments in policies to deal with cannabis in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries are bound by international conventions to control cannabis and in each case cannabis use, possession, cultivation and supply is illegal. In both countries almost all the supply is grown locally and patterns of use and health concerns appear to be similar. Strategies used to deal with cannabis include: demand reduction through enforcement of legislation, drug education and treatment; supply reduction through enforcement of legislation and crop recovery operations; and harm reduction through diversion of some offenders from the courts system, lenient enforcement policies for users and, in Australia, the formal decriminalization of cannabis use in two states/territories and de facto decriminalization in another. Australia has had a co-ordinated national drugs policy with a stated harm reduction focus for over a decade, while in New Zealand efforts to co-ordinate policy have been delayed by ongoing debates about cannabis's harm potential and what constitutes an appropriate approach. However, a national drugs policy with a professed harm reduction focus is currently being finalized. Despite these developments, government cut-backs and international and local prohibitionist influences on policy in both countries suggest that a harm reduction model may not necessarily be secure.

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