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Law change positive step toward treating drug use as health issue

7 Aug 2019
This article was published 5 years ago. Content may no longer be relevant.

Amendments to New Zealand’s drug law passed by Parliament today will mean more people will get the support they need, instead of a conviction for drug use. The Drug Foundation applauds the government on this bold law making.

“This amendment to New Zealand’s obsolete drug law is a massive leap towards treating drug use as a health issue,” said Ross Bell, NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director.

“Today’s law change makes it easier for people to step forward to get help without fear of being punished, and it means Police will be able to devote more time to target those supplying dangerous drugs.

“Convicting people for using drugs has done nothing to reduce use. Going after people, especially very vulnerable members of our community, is not only a waste of Police time, it gets in the way of people putting up their hand for help. This changes today. 

“This change to the law was prompted by the shocking number of deaths caused by dangerous synthetic drugs, for which New Zealand was woefully unprepared.

“Since these and subsequent tragic deaths came to light, the government has established a community rapid response fund, boosted investment in drug treatment, and initiated a drug information alert system.

“Today’s changes are another building block we need to better protect our families and communities from harmful drug use.

“New Zealand’s 40-year experiment with punitive drug law, which has ruined the lives of thousands of our friends and families, is coming to an an end. Now that the government has made this first step, it is time to begin debate on shifting to a full health-based approach to drugs as happened in Portugal. 

In March, the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry recommended civil responses replace criminal sanctions for the possession of drugs for personal use. The government has said it will consider this but has yet to commit to a timeline. 

“This is a great start, but there is still work to do. We’ll be keeping the pressure on to ensure everyone who needs help gets it, that Police apply discretion evenly, and lives aren’t burdened by unnecessary convictions”, said Mr. Bell.

View the amdendment bill, submissions and video of Parliamentary debates:  Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (2019)


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