Customs have finally succeeded in having an issue of Cannabis Culture magazine banned. The May/June 2007 issue, imported from Canada and distributed by The Hempstore, was sent to the Office of Film and Literature Classification. In a decision released in late October, the Office ruled the magazine “objectionable”, meaning it cannot be sold or read in New Zealand.
Rulings on three previous issues had said the magazine could be sold as long as it was wrapped and restricted to those aged over 18. These rulings were based in part on a 1998 ruling on High Times magazine, which had said that the grow section was a small part of the magazine as a whole,
and even though it encouraged “criminal activity” it was not the “dominant effect” of the publication as a whole.
The Hempstore noted no complaints had been received by any members of the public
and said it is “the test of a free society that controversial topics can be openly debated without
the suppression of information from one side.” A ban would represent a “gross intrusion into
the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights Act”.
The censors did not agree, largely because they said this issue – which included interviews with Stephen Marley and Tommy Chong, art glass photography, pot puzzles, and international cannabis law reform news – also featured an article about making bubble hash.
They said the magazine “promotes criminal actions to a greater extent and degree than issues previously classified … The magazine’s focus on “profiling and promoting the marijuana industry” includes an extensive and prominent feature on converting cannabis trim to bubblehash … It is this feature, in particular, that influences the dominant effect of the issue under review. When encouragement to break the law is the dominant effect, readers are less likely to interpret the magazine’s support for currently criminal behaviour as advocacy of law reform and may be attracted to experimentation with criminal activities. In this context the availability of the publication
is likely to be injurious to the public good.”
While other issues of Cannabis Culture and Norml News are not directly affected by the ruling, it
sets a bad precedent and Customs may decide to send all future issues to the censors as they arrive. The latest issue of CC mag that is about to hit our shores features an article on “New
Zealand’s Irie Activists”. That’s sure to go down a treat with the fun police.
(NORML News Summer 2008)