Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill passes final reading

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill has passed its final reading in Parliament.

Health Minister David Clark Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

The bill gives police discretion to take a health-centred approach, rather than prosecuting those in possession of class A drugs.

It also classifies the synthetic cannabinoids AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs and enables temporary drug class orders to be issued for emerging substances.

The bill passed 63 votes to 57, with Labour, the Greens and NZ first voting in favour and National, ACT and Jami-Lee Ross voting against the bill.

After negotiations with New Zealand First, the Health Minister David Clark agreed to clarify the wording before the bill's third reading, so police can only take a health-centred approach when it is in the public interest.

Dr Clark said police were already exercising discretion, but the bill supports their practice.

"Generally I would expect in the public interest it would be more sensible to apply a therapeutic approach.

"But where somebody for example is more clearly not willing to go down a therapeutic road and there are other people in danger, I expect the police will continue to do what they do now, which is follow a path to prosecution," he said.

Dr Clark said it will mean resources are freed up so police can go after manufacturers and suppliers of drugs, rather than those caught in the web of addiction.

But during the reading's debate, National police spokesperson Brett Hudson said it would tie the hands of police and Crown prosecutors.

Mr Hudson said if for example someone caught multiple time with possession of meth and the police deemed it in the public interest to prosecute, as soon the case went to court it would be challenged.

"They can argue in the court it has to be proven a health-based approach would not have been better in the public interest in that case and that did not and has not existed in the discretionary powers officers have exercised before," he said.

National MP Paula Bennett said the bill decriminalized drugs by stealth.

"National supports both greater rehabilitation and tougher sentences, treatment and deterrence should go hand in hand.

"However this Bill means Police won't prosecute people who are buying and using hard drugs including P, heroin and cocaine," she said.

Ms Bennett added police aren't social workers and the bill meant it will be up to them to help people try to find services that don't exist.

But NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell welcomed the passing of the bill.

"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", he said.

He said the law change was prompted by a shocking number of deaths caused by dangerous synthetic drugs, for which he added New Zealand was woefully unprepared.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The Saudi Oil Refinery Crisis

So the US and the Saudis claim to have credible evidence that those Weapons of Oil Destruction came from Iran, their current bogey now that Saddam Hussein is no longer available. Evidently, the world has learned nothing from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when dodgy US intel was wheeled out to justify the invasion of Iraq, thereby giving birth to ISIS and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. More>>


Veronika Meduna on The Dig: Kaitiakitanga - Seeing Nature As Your Elder

The intricate interconnections between climate change and biodiversity loss, and how this disruption impacts Māori in particular. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On China And Hong Kong (And Boris)

In the circumstances, yesterday’s move by Lam to scrap – rather than merely suspend – the hated extradition law that first triggered the protests three months ago, seems like the least she can do. It may also be too little, too late. More>>


Dave Hansford on The Dig: Whose Biodiversity Is It Anyway?

The DOC-led draft Biodiversity Strategy seeks a “shared vision.” But there are more values and views around wildlife than there are species. How can we hope to agree on the shape of Aotearoa’s future biota? More>>


There Is A Field: Reimagining Biodiversity In Aotearoa

We are in a moment of existential peril, with interconnected climate and biodiversity crises converging on a global scale to drive most life on Earth to the brink of extinction… These massive challenges can, however, be reframed as a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change how humanity relates to nature and to each other. Read on The Dig>>