A pro-cannabis group has presented a unique solution to fears of alcohol-fuelled crowd violence at the Rugby World Cup 2011 - an amnesty on pot smoking.
The suggestion was made during an Armistice Day protest in Parliament Grounds yesterday, during which about 100 supporters of legalising cannabis openly smoked joints, bubbled away on bongs and lit their pipes in front of police and security guards.
Michael Appleby, the leader of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, proposed the Rugby World Cup amnesty, saying it would help prevent a repeat of the crowd violence demonstrated at Eden Park last weekend.
However, the logic fell on deaf ears - Justice Minister Simon Power was quick to reject the idea when reporters asked him about it later.
The police turned a blind eye to the blatant use of cannabis during the protest, which was part of a nationwide "Armistice Tour" led by activist Dakta Green calling for "peace" between the state and cannabis users.
Senior Sergeant Scott Miller said police had spoken to the protest leaders and the Speaker of Parliament beforehand and the main objective was to ensure the event was peaceful.
Police Minister Judith Collins was not impressed with the protesters, saying, "There's a moron born every moment."
She said she was not able to tell the police how to enforce the law but acknowledged they were in a difficult situation. "If they do enforce the law in matters like that there would be plenty of people wanting to criticise them for doing so."
The protesters later barged into the Wellington Central police station's foyer to light a cannabis bonfire.
But although the protest at Parliament was loud, with vuvuzelas and chanting, it was also one of the happiest protests the political precinct had seen in some time.
Pot smoke drifted around the statue of the appropriately Liberal former premier Richard Seddon. The smokers lit their pipes by sun power with the help of a magnifying glass.
One man played the guitar and sporadically yelled out "Te Puke Thunder". Another looked at the police and yelled, "We've got shotguns - but they're not firearms."
Activists carried placards calling for "Equal rights for tokers" and wore T-shirts saying, "Yes We Can Nabis".
Dakta Green presented a petition to Green MP Gareth Hughes, signed by about 4300 people. The "Armistice Agreement" called for a halt to all cannabis arrests and a regulated, legal, taxable cannabis market for adults.
The campaigners got their wish on the first point for at least an hour at Parliament yesterday. But Mr Power gave the same answer to the second request as to the Rugby World Cup amnesty idea: no.
By Claire Trevett
Nov 12, 2010
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