[ Skip to main content ]
< Back to all stories

2017 Parliamentary Drug Law Symposium

18 Apr 2017
This article was published 7 years ago. Content may no longer be relevant.

2017 Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium banner - hand drawn maze

Jul 5, 2017

2017 Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium: Through the Maze, Healthy Drug Law

Location: Banquet Hall, Parliament, Wellington
Organiser: NZ Drug Foundation

The NZ Drug Foundation brought people together over 200 people to talk about drug law that can respond to the realities of the 21st century. 

Find out what happened: 

At the Symposium the Drug Foundation launched Whakawātea te Huarahi: A model drug law to 2020 and beyond. 


New Zealanders show no sign of a reduced appetite for drugs. Although patterns of supply and demand are constantly evolving, drug use carries on unabated. Yet New Zealand's drug laws have stood still.

The current law hinges on people being punished out of drug use. This failed approach is over 40 years old. In 2011 the NZ Law Commission recommended a fundamental overhaul, but still the law remains the same. 

The human toll of this punitive approach is very high. Many people’s lives have been ruined by drug laws that are not fit for purpose. A conviction for a minor drug offence has a lifelong impact, and those already suffering socio-economic hardship and racial prejudice bear the brunt.

To move ahead, the speakers at the 2017 Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium shared health-based approaches to drug policy that are rolling out in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Aotearoa New Zealand. The symposium looked at legislative options and practical initiatives, as well as evidence for change. 


The time has come to look for solutions based on evidence of what is working. We need to:

  • Recognise that prohibition has not worked. Convicting people for drug use doesn’t stop them taking drugs, but it does contribute to lifelong disadvantage
  • Invest in an approach to drugs that better protects people (especially young people) from harm. Re-prioritise spending so more goes to prevention, education and treatment
  • Ensure that everyone who needs help can access it
  • Back the things that work: not enforcement, but health and social interventions, and
  • Reduce crime and take control away from the black market.

Being informed about what is working with drug law and policy is a vital part of devising solutions that will work in New Zealand. In order to have a rich debate and to share insights with diverse communities throughout New Zealand, we are encouraging people from the following fields to participate:

  • People working in health and social services
  • Iwi, hāpu and whānau, and Māori organisation representatives
  • DHB and local government leaders
  • Community-based policy advocates and champions
  • NGOs and advocates working for reform of the criminal justice
  • Public health workers, and others in medical profession
  • Youth development workers
  • Policy advisors and researchers
  • School principals, board members and other educators.




Recent news