|Photo: Akl Seshnz|
|The victorious ‘Waiheke Four’ after all charges were dismissed for possession of cannabis and a bong|
After a trial lasting nearly a year and which cost taxpayers about $40,000, marijuana charges against four New Zealand men were dismissed last week in Auckland District Court.
The case took a total of 11 months, required five court appearances, three legal aid lawyers, one interpreter, and two police witnesses traveling to and from Waiheke Island, according to NORML New Zealand.
The four men, dubbed the “Waiheke Four” by supporters, were arrested on New Year’s Eve last year sitting at a public picnic table on a beach on Waiheke Island. On the table and nearby, police found a bong and nine grams of cannabis.
“There was no evidence linking any of the men to the cannabis and bong, yet all four were arrested, charged and prosecuted in court,” said Stephen McIntyre, president of NORML New Zealand.
“The case, which has been estimated by lawyers as costing approximately $40,000, was dismissed by Judge Kiernan this week due to lack of evidence from the prosecution,” McIntyre said. “A joint costs about $10 to buy, but this trial brought by the police has cost taxpayers more than $2,000 per joint, with no convictions to show for it!”
“This just goes to show the new police policy of not prosecuting minor offenses — such as possession of a bong or nine grams of cannabis — is sorely needed,” McIntyre said.
“However, it doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “If the ‘Waiheke Four’ had been warned, they would be prosecuted twice if they were caught again. And the courts may treat them more harshly, knowing they had used up their warning.”
“Additionally, for a warning to be issued the offenders must be remorseful for their offending,” McIntyre said. “These men, however, didn’t see themselves as criminals and felt they had nothing to be sorry about.”
“This new ‘two strikes and you’re out’ system avoids the central issue that cannabis should not be illegal to begin with,” McIntyre said, “and New Zealand’s 400,000 cannabis smokers should not have to be dealt with by the police simply for using their drug of choice.”