Pro-cannabis protest held in peace, man

Pro-cannabis protest held in peace, man

Thu, 1 May 2008
Southland Times

Police made no arrests at a pro-cannabis protest in Invercargill yesterday — despite a cannabis plant being in plain view and supporters openly smoking the drug.

A police officer at the scene, next to the Cenotaph in Dee St, read the Misuse of Drugs Act but after talking with the protesters did not act on it.

Protest co-ordinator Dakta Green said it was the group's most heated exchange with police on its nationwide protest tour but was pleased it had not gone further. "It was a perfectly reasonable and responsible thing for the Invercargill police to do — this is a peaceful political protest and they did right to step back and withdraw." There had been two arrests on the tour, in Palmerston North on Good Friday, for cannabis use.

Senior Sergeant Olaf Jensen, of Invercargill, said police didn't undertake the search for operational reasons.

Southland area commander Inspector Tony O'Neill said the group's aim was to provoke a reaction — which police were not going to give it.

He also questioned the positioning of Norml's bus so close to the Cenotaph only days after Anzac Day. Promoting what was, whether the protesters liked it or not, an unlawful activity in the shadow of a monument devoted to men and women who had lawfully died in service of their country was disrespectful, he said.

About 60 people turned up in the rain for the afternoon rally to give their support for legalising cannabis.

The protest trip was organised by the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml).

Originally, it was just to visit a friend in Dunedin but developed into Norml's most extensive tour, with protests throughout the country, Mr Green said. "In a stoner moment, we invented 42 towns in 42 days just to get to him in Dunedin." And in true pot-smoking logic, Invercargill was the 43rd stop on the "42-town" tour.

The group also plans to protest on Stewart Island today.