Chris Fowlie on The Daily Blog – Even one cannabis arrest is one too many

Originally published on The Daily Blog, 23 July 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 4.01.08 am
I’m either stupid or in denial, because apparently the police have already decriminalised weed. 
That’s according to an article in the latest issue of Salient, which says “Fowlie focusses on the noise and misses the signal” in a recent post I made here on The Daily Blog.
Maybe I was too busy helping victims of cannabis prohibition to have noticed that police have, by stealth, secretly decriminalised cannabis in direct contravention of official government policy.
To be clear, it’s an otherwise excellent article that I thoroughly recommend reading. Just ignore the introduction – or even better, read my blog first.
I had unearthed official statistics that revealed the staggering number of arrests made under our forty-year-old drug law, and said police were causing more harm than they were solving:
… cannabis apprehensions since 1994, or half the four decades the Misuse of Drugs Act has been in force. They make for sobering reading.

  • Over 449,000 people were arrested for drugs in that 20-year period, or eleven per cent of all recorded crime
  • 85% of all drug arrests are for cannabis, contrary to Government assurances they concentrate on serious crime
  • 87% of all cannabis arrests are for personal amounts, contrary to Police assurances they don’t arrest pot smokers
  • That’s an average of 18,000 cannabis arrests per year, or fifty per day, every single day. Another every 29 minutes!
  • Counting just people arrested for small personal cannabis gives an average of 15,800 per year or 43 people arrested every single day (one every 33 minutes).
The Salient article accuses me of focusing on the average cannabis arrest rate over the last twenty years while ignoring the more recent and substantial decline in cannabis arrests. However, I had actually noted this in my post, although Salient readers would not know this.
While police arrest fewer people for cannabis these days than they did ten years ago, this year they will still aim to busting over ten thousand cannabis consumers and providers, maintaining New Zealand’s dubious record of having one of the highest cannabis arrests rates in the world.
I gave as an example their senseless persecution of cannabis activist and NORML board member Dakta Green. He is currently detained in Mt Eden Prison, the same place where “fight club” and “dropping” is alleged to have occurred. It is completely senseless to have put him there and the latest allegations of what really goes on inside our jails makes it all the more important we get him, and other cannabis prisoners, out.
Far from decriminalising cannabis, police have pursued Dakta with a vengeance. Earlier this year they were found to have lied in court and were forced to give back The Daktory’s cannabis vending machine. Undeterred, they continued to prosecute Dakta on separate cannabis charges, for which he was found guilty in January this year, and sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment. While the jury was deliberating, they raided his motel unit and busted him again for a small amount of cannabis. Even though Dakta is already in jail, they are continuing to prosecute him over the small personal amount they allegedly found.
However, their chances of conviction appear slim at best. At the Auckland District Court this week, Dakta’s counsel raised serious allegations of abuse of power, failing to get a search warrant, secretly searching his unit, and possibly fabricating the anonymous tip off that they claimed to have received that alleged Dakta was selling cannabis to children. The police prosecutor seemed mildly annoyed, then outright angry that he had no idea that police officers had secretly searched Dakta’s motel unit, and rather than returning with a warrant as the law required them to do, they came back and invoked the Misuse of Drugs Act’s “emergency” search powers. They then refused to call as a witness the officer Smith, who had actually invoked the search, instead preferring to call only officers Lee, Bullock, Price and Costello. The anonymous tip off to 111 originated from the police phone system.
These are serious allegations, and police must be held to account. They are not the actions of a benign police force that has of it’s own volition decided to decriminalise cannabis, as Salient would have us believe.

I agree it’s fantastic police are now arresting fewer cannabis users, but the problem with leaving it up to their discretion is that enforcement becomes biased against minority groups, those who fit the stereotype (ie, mostly young males), or those like Dakta who won’t recognise the legitimacy of their cannabis laws. If you’re younger, non white, male or anti-establishment then you have a much greater chance of being arrested. The Salient article eventually came to the same conclusion as me, which makes their introduction all the more odd.

The police may be arresting fewer cannabis folk but if this is decriminalisation, try telling that to Dakta Green and the other ten thousand people who police will choose to arrest this year for cannabis.
For me, even one cannabis arrest is one too many.

Leave a Reply