Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


‘Public Interest’ Amendment To Drug Law Needed To Hasten Future Harm Reduction Initiatives

The New Zealand Drug Foundation is calling for a ‘public interest’ exemption to be added to the country’s drug laws to enable quicker and easier establishment of future harm reduction initiatives that could save lives. 

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Sarah Helm, made the call today during a submission in support of the Drug and Substance Checking Bill - new legislation that will permanently legalise drug checking.

“The Drug Foundation supports this world-first legislation,” says Helm. “While drug checking has been happening in other parts of the world, no other country has created dedicated legislation and regulations to enable it. We can be proud.”

In Canada, harm reduction programmes such as drug checking and supervised injecting sites were able to be introduced under a ‘public interest’ clause in the country’s existing laws. The clause allows the government to make an exemption to the country’s drug law if they deem it in the ‘public interest’.

“Our drug laws are broken and don't allow for harm reduction measures. Our two proudest and most effective drug interventions, Needle Exchange and drug checking, have both required special legislative exceptions to be made and both operated in a legal grey area beforehand,” says Helm.

“A ‘public interest’ clause in the Misuse of Drugs Act would be a simple way that we can ensure future harm reduction and potentially life-saving initiatives are able to be rolled out quickly and easily.”

“Rather than going through a lengthy legislative process each time we want to establish a new initiative, a ‘public interest’ clause would enable the Director General of Health to make the call following a scientific approval process. This would mean future initiatives, such as overdose prevention centres or the provision of safer using equipment as alternatives to injecting like pipes, would be much easier to implement.”

In their submission to the Health Select Committee, the Foundation voiced its strong support for the Drug and Substance Checking Bill and congratulated the Government for introducing legislation to clarify the legal status of drug checking - an essential harm reduction service that saves lives.

Helm says the Foundation would like to see drug checking services greatly expanded to ensure equitable access for anyone across Aotearoa who would benefit, run by a range of service providers. 

“Legalising drug checking means services can be expanded to reach more people, which is crucial,” says Helm. “Current services aren’t reaching enough New Zealanders. The main drug checking services are only able to be in a maximum of three places at a time currently because we only have access to three spectrometers, the machines used to test substances.”

Helm says that currently people who are using methamphetamine, who inject drugs or who use synthetic cannabinoids are not able to access drug checking.

“More funding and proactive provision of drug checking is needed to ensure that people who are most at-risk are able to access this vital service. We want to see drug checking made available at Needle Exchanges, in community centres and in many other places.”

Helm says one of the vital components of drug-checking is the harm reduction advice given while drugs are being checked. This kind of advice isn’t generally available anywhere else, and the Foundation is calling for that to be a mandatory requirement of selected providers.

“Funding must be made available to buy more spectrometers, improve access and ensure harm reduction advice can be provided wherever drug checking takes place.”

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Covid Vaccine Inequality, Plus Cowboy Bebop

Plainly, the Big Pharma model – where vaccine development, distribution, and pricing is left in the hands of the private sector - is not fit for purpose when it comes to meeting the global challenge of Covid vaccine coverage. Last week, Amnesty International released a major report on how the global response to the pandemic is only accentuating the inequalities... More>>

Covid-19, 27/9: 1,160 Overall Cases, 5,000,000+ Vaccine Doses

12 new cases have been discovered in Auckland, currently at Level 3. 948 of the Auckland cases have recovered alongside all of the Wellington cases... More>>



Wellington Council: Mayor Suggests UK-style Arts-sector Insurance Scheme
It’s time New Zealand thought about an arts and events sector insurance scheme, not unlike that in the United Kingdom, says Wellington Mayor Andy Foster. His call follows the cancellation of the World of WearableArts 2021 show... More>>

Government: Next Steps To Improve Safety In Wake Of Whakaari White Island Tragedy
The Government is moving to improve safety in light of the Whakaari White Island tragedy and has released proposals to reinforce safety standards in registered adventure activities... More>>

Government: Expert Group Appointed To Lead New Zealand’s Future Health System
An outstanding group of people with extensive and wide-ranging governance and health experience have been appointed to lead the Māori Health Authority and Health New Zealand, Health Minister Andrew Little says... More>>


Land Air Water: Two-thirds Of NZ’s Monitored River Sites Ecologically Impaired

Today, the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) project has released the LAWA River Water Quality National Picture Summary 2021, alongside updated river monitoring result histories for more than 1500 individual sites across New Zealand... More>>

Power: Bill Changes Bring Fairness To Charges

A key recommendation of an independent panel to make electricity charges fairer across all households will be put in place, the Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods has announced... More>>

Government: Parks expiry of licenses, WoFs and regos
As a result of the Delta outbreak, driver licences, Warrants of Fitness (WoFs), Certificates of Fitness (CoFs), vehicle licences (‘regos’) and licence endorsements that expired on or after 21 July 2021 will be valid until 30 November 2021, Transport Minister Michael Wood has announced today... More>>




InfoPages News Channels