New Zealand authorities want the Censor's office to look at a national pro-cannabis magazine which even sells in some branches of Whitcoulls.
But their move, which could result in the censor banning Norml News is outraging politicians and cannabis law reformers who say it's undemocratic.
Norml News is the voice of New Zealand's dope smokers and since 1990 it's been calling for the reform of the country's cannabis laws.
The magazine carries pro-cannabis articles, gardening supply advertisements, and the latest issue even has a message from Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.
Now Internal affairs has sent it to the Censor's office, Ms Turei says she's horrified and it's an attack on democracy – the magazine's editor is livid. Internal Affairs says it's just seeking guidance.
No member of the public has ever complained about any marijuana publication – it's always coming from the authorities who are trying to be thought police and tell us what we can think and what we can read, Chris Fowlie says.
It will be at least six weeks before the Censor's office announces its decision on any possible ban.
A cannabis law reform magazine has been told it could be restricted to adults only unless it changes its content.
Three past issues of the pro-cannabis magazine Norml News were referred to the Censor by police and the Department of Internal Affairs after they were seized in a national operation against gardening stores in April.
Chief Censor Bill Hastings has ruled that those three issues should be given R18 status so they're not sold to children.
Hastings says that the chief aim of the magazine is to advocate law reform in regard to a currently illegal drug, but that people under 18 years are not mature enough to make the distinction. He says the whole magazine could be made R18 in future
if it continues the way it has been.
Norml News editor Chris Fowlie says the Censor's decision is wrong and patronising to young people. It shows, he says, that the authorities are trying to shut down free speech.
A request by NORML under the Official Information Act has revealed police had a secret meeting with Internal
Affairs departmental heads, and asked them to try to get marijuana law reform magazine Norml News completely banned.
The documents reveal Police hope to have Norml News completely banned, as well as High Times and Cannabis Culture magazines.
Police had previously denied being involved with sending the publication to the censors, and a spokesperson for the Censorship unit told media at the time that there was nothing to suggest the request for a ban had come from the police. The
Secretary of Internal Affairs said he was just seeking guidance .
Suspecting there was more to it, NORML News editor Chris Fowlie wrote to the Secretary of Internal Affairs under the Official Information Act, requesting any documents he held on the magazine.
The documents reveal two police officers arranged a meeting with Internal Affairs department heads on 31 May 2010 during which the existence of several publications dealing with the cultivation of cannabis and other illegal activity was
Police also asked the Secretary of Internal Affairs to pursue a Serial Publication Order - which would mean all existing and future copies of the magazine would be prohibited - for Norml News, High Times and Cannabis Culture magazines.
A serial publication order would mean all existing issues would be banned and the magazine would be prohibited from publishing any more issues.
We are outraged at this blatant political interference in our campaign for sensible drug laws, said editor Chris Fowlie. Police are lying to the media and misleading the public. They should admit they are behind this censorship, rather
than hiding behind the faceless grey suits of Wellington.
If the police succeed in banning Norml News, this could criminalise thousands of people who have an old copy somewhere, said Fowlie. We have printed more than one million copies which all found happy homes and a recall would be
Cannabis law reform magazine Norml News , which both New Zealand Police and Internal Affairs recently tried to ban,
has just released its Winter/Spring 2010 issue, including revelations about how and why the magazine nearly got permanently suppressed.
Immediately prior to the Operation Lime raids in April, police went to the Dept of Internal Affairs and discussed the magazine, Editor Chris Fowlie said. Soon after, Internal Affairs requested a ban on Norml News, but that request was
refused and we're still here.
Documents uncovered by NORML under the Official Information Act reveal that Internal Affairs officers fronted a covert police initiative to get Norml News banned entirely. The Chief Censor's office didn't go that far, but did decide to classify
three previous issues of the magazine as R18 publications. NORML plans to appeal the decision.
The latest issue of Norml News investigates what took place during Operation Lime and concludes that the Government has brought back the War on Drugs, especially their war on NZ's 400,000 cannabis users. Playing to the 'tough on crime' crowd,
Judith Collins and Simon Power both seem keen on ramping up the War on Drugs, Fowlie said.