Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Drug stand angers Democrat

The Australian

Australian Democrats national president Richard Pascoe may quit the party over his South Australian parliamentary leader's controversial views on the illegal drug ecstasy.

In comments that have placed the floundering party in further turmoil, Sandra Kanck said on Wednesday she would rather attend a rave party where "happy people" consume ecstasy than go to a hotel where aggressive drunks were "puking all over the place".

Her statement has reignited anger within the party over her position on the drug and follows earlier comments in May that put her at odds with Mr Pascoe, who is the party's South Australian president and took on the job of national president last month.

Mr Pascoe is now considering quitting the party, which performed poorly in the March state election.

"I have not made a final decision on my future with the party yet," Mr Pascoe said. He refused to comment further.

Ms Kanck is to be hauled before an emergency state executive meeting on Monday night.
It will be the third time she has been asked to appear before the party hierarchy and explain her public statements on ecstasy.

In her latest comments, Ms Kanck admitted she had attended a rave party last weekend and that users told her if ecstasy was in a "reasonably pure form" there was no health problem.
Ms Kanck has been accused of endorsing a drug that can cause mental illness.

She previously told parliament in May that ecstasy was not a dangerous drug in its pure form of MDMA and could be used to treat victims of post-traumatic stress.

Ms Kanck gave two media interviews this week about the rave party she attended, saying it had "a lot of happy people".

"People get very talkative when they are on these pills and they almost won't go away sometimes.

"It's nothing like being in a hotel bar ... if I had a choice between being at a rave party and a hotel bar, I'd go to the rave party every time."

She had "no problems with it (rave parties) at all".

Ms Kanck is the sole Democrats MP in South Australia's parliament, after the party secured just 1.8 per cent of upper-house votes.

She has resisted pressure to stand aside, but has confirmed she will not run again when her current term expires in 2010.

The Democrats' state policy during the last election supported a trial to test pills at rave parties and harm-minimisation.

Her previous state colleagues have advocated marijuana coffee-houses and doctor-prescribed cannabis.

While party sources have complained Ms Kanck's stance breached party policy, the federal party does not specifically outline its drugs policy platform on its website.

Ms Kanck did not return The Australian's calls.

By Michelle Wiese Bockmann


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