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Important step in the right direction

Media Release (13/12/18)

Government should be applauded for taking a small but important step in the right direction to better control illicit drugs

The government needs to be applauded on its announcement today to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act for Police to exercise discretion and not prosecute people for personal use of illicit drugs where a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial.

Even though this is essentially sanctioning what the Police are often doing already, this is arguably the most important step a government has announced in gaining better control over illicit drugs for over 50 years.

It is very hard to imagine a situation where a therapeutic approach would not be more beneficial than criminalisation. However, there needs to be easily accessible therapeutic options available to the Police for this to be enacted. The $8 million dollars provided over four years as a discretionary fund will not achieve this. This amount needs to be enhanced by an order of 100x to achieve transformative gains.

The small move by the government announced today is likely to take a little heat off the “get tough on drugs” approach which has been very damaging to drug users, their families and communities. However, it needs to go much further in order to get better control of illicit drugs.

Getting better control of illicit drugs will come with undermining the enormous black market in illicit drugs that exists in New Zealand. In order to achieve this the government needs to take two bold steps:

1. Enact a Portugal-like shift of resources from the criminal justice system to the drug rehabilitation system in order to significantly enhance treatment options for drug users;

2. Create a strictly regulated, not for private profit, system of supply of currently illicit drugs beginning with cannabis.


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