The New Zealand public needs to have its confidence restored in the police and the quickest way for that to happen is to stop criminalising cannabis.

“The announcement this week of Police Commissioner Rob Pope’s resignation signals a healthy change in the nature of Police culture,” said NORML NZ President Stephen McIntyre today. “But over the years, the law criminalising cannabis has done much to erode the general public’s confidence and trust in law enforcement.”

“Drug laws create corruption causing half our society to hate the police. Police smoke cannabis too and it’s well-known anecdotally that busting people for pot and then ‘confiscating’ the evidence is a common way for officers to get their own supply.”

“The continued criminalisation of cannabis in New Zealand means police spend over $100 million every year focusing on unimportant crime, at the expense of solving crime that matters.”

“What would be a better use of Police time: arresting people for cannabis or dealing with burglaries, domestic abuse and drunken brawls?”

A 2003 Health Select Committee report found that Maori are three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than non-Maori, and four times more likely to be convicted.

The Committee also heard from Police Association President Greg O’Connor that police have targeted people for cannabis on the basis of their dress and how they looked. Young New Zealanders aged 17-24 are those most likely to be arrested for cannabis.

Half of all adult New Zealanders have tried cannabis and 400,000 people admit to being current users.

“We will all be better off, and we would have a better police culture, when we switch from using criminal penalties against cannabis to regulating and controlling it instead,” said Mr McIntyre. “It’s a health issue, not a crime!”