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Experts Sign Open Letter To Legalise Drugs In New Zealand

Today, a new organisation, Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa (HRCA) launched with the submission of an Open Letter to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, signed by a plethora of professors, academics, researchers, clinicians, health professionals, NGO workers, drug consumers, and members of the public calling for the legalisation and regulation of all drugs.

Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa, a new incorporated society dedicated to ending harmful drug policies, officially launched today, on International Harm Reduction Day. HRCA seeks a new fit-for-purpose drug law for Aotearoa New Zealand, rooted in science, experience and evidence, to promote harm reduction and protect human rights as originally recommended by the NZ Law Commission in 2011.

Founded by a diverse, non-partisan, independent group with a wealth of expertise in drug policy and practice, HRCA boasts a membership of over 50 individuals and six organisations, including; the Drugs Health and Development Project (DHDP), the Drug Injecting Services Canterbury (DISC), Aotearoa Drug Information Outreach (ADIO), Know Your Stuff (KYSNZ), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and HIT UK.

Wendy Allison MNZM, a founding member of HRCA who was also instrumental in bringing drug checking to New Zealand says:

"It is clear that the Misuse of Drugs Act is not fit for purpose. After 50 years it has failed to reduce drug use or drug harm. In fact, every problem we have around drugs in Aotearoa has developed under prohibition. We as a country deserve better - it's time for a new approach."

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The launch of Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa comes at a critical time, as governments across the world are having to rethink prohibitionist drug laws that do more harm than the drugs they purport to protect us from. A range of alternative models of legalisation, decriminalisation and regulation are emerging worldwide. Lachlan Akers, Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa Chairperson says:

“It’s time to stop funding criminal organisations by letting them control New Zealand’s drug market. We need to end prohibition to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs, to benefit our society as a whole.”

In the Open Letter, HRCA calls for the failed and damaging prohibitionist drug laws to be rescinded and replaced by a new Psychoactive Drugs Act that would legally regulate the supply of all psychoactive drugs. The Open Letter to the government is supported by 155 signatures and includes eight professors, 31 doctors (PhD & MDs), is endorsed by 29 organisations and supported by experts from 14 countries across North America, South America, South Africa, Europe and Australasia.

For more information on Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa and how to get involved, please visit Together, we can make a difference by developing world leading drug policies in New Zealand that are rational, responsible and put the health and well being of people first.

The Open Letter to the New Zealand Government submitted on Tuesday 7th May 2024 6am

The ideologically driven War on Drugs has failed to reduce the demand for, or the supply of, prohibited psychoactive substances in Aotearoa New Zealand; in reality it has had the opposite effect. It is time we face the truth and bring an end to the serious harm caused by prohibition.

In 1971, the United States of America declared a global War on Drugs, to which New Zealand aligned, in an attempt to eradicate drug use. Despite five decades of prohibition under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, illicit drugs remain prevalent and accessible. Not only has the War on Drugs failed to achieve its purported goals, it has exacerbated the very issues it set out to address and spawned new, serious harms; communities are victims of violence from drug crime, families are torn apart by incarceration, and countless lives are lost to overdose and addiction. People who use drugs are forced into dangerous underground markets where gangs and criminals profit. While drugs are used by all sections of society, law enforcement has targeted the poor, young people, Māori and people with chronic unmet needs, leading to disproportionate arrests, imprisonment and social exclusion. Yet drug use has occurred throughout history, and always will, so rather than bury our heads in the sand, we need new laws that responsibly manage the drug market.

Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa seeks a new approach, one that ensures drug policies are no longer rooted in ideology, but in science, evidence and experience. We seek the implementation of policies that promote harm reduction and protect human rights for all.

As a first step, New Zealand must rescind the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 (as recommended by the Law Commission Review in 2011) and develop a new, fit-for-purpose Psychoactive Drugs Act managed by Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, to regulate the legal supply of all psychoactive substances.

With legalisation and regulation, we will seriously weaken the underground market, ensure product quality and safety, enable consumer rights, and generate tax revenue for essential public services.

Legalisation and regulation will stop life opportunities being ruined by drug convictions, and reduce the fear, discrimination and stigma for those seeking help with drugs.

Legalisation and regulation will ensure the minority of people who get caught up in problematic drug use have access to a full range of harm reduction options and evidence-based support services.

The legalisation of drugs for personal use, supply regulation, and evidence-based harm reduction strategies will significantly reduce the evident drug harms in New Zealand.

Realising the serious truth about the War on Drugs is a necessary act; we must stop perpetuating the status quo while sacrificing lives and livelihoods in pursuit of this highly questionable yet pervasive prohibitionist ideology. Developing a mature and responsible approach to drugs requires bold leadership and collective action - that’s why a non-partisan and diverse group of experts in the field and people with lived experience have collaborated to form Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa.

It's time to chart a new pathway forward - one guided by compassion, science, evidence, experience and human rights. Aotearoa New Zealand has the opportunity to be a world leader with transformative, fit for purpose, evidence-based drug laws. Together we can build a more just, humane and coherent approach to legal and illegal drug use in Aotearoa New Zealand. 7th May 2024


CountryOrganisations Supporting the HRCA Open Letter
New ZealandAotearoa Drug Information Outreach Trust
New ZealandAuckland Patients Group
New ZealandDrug Injecting Services in Canterbury 
New ZealandDrugs, Health and Development Project Trust
New ZealandInstitute of Criminology, Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington
New ZealandKnowYourStuffNZ
New ZealandPeople Against Prisons Aotearoa
New ZealandStudent Christian Movement Aotearoa
New ZealandStudents for Sensible Drug Policy Aotearoa
New ZealandStudents for Sensible Drug Policy Ōtepoti/Dunedin
AustraliaGlobal Law Enforcement and Public Health Association
AustraliaThe Loop Australia
CanadaJ Healthcare Initiative
CanadaMoms Stop The Harm
Colombia Corporación Acción Técnica Social 
EuropeLaw Enforcement Action Partnership (EU)
IrelandPriority Medical Clinic, Dublin, Ireland
MexicoInstituto RIA
NetherlandsCorrelation-European Harm Reduction Network
NorwayAssociation for Humane Drug Policy
Sloveniadruštvo AREAL
South AfricaSouth African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD)
United KingdomGlobal Drug Survey
United KingdomTransform Drug Policy Foundation
USADee-Dee Stout Consulting
USADoctors for Drug Policy Reform
USALaw Enforcement Action Partnership (USA)
CountryProfessors Supporting HRCA Open Letter
New ZealandProfessor Joseph M Boden
New ZealandProfessor Elizabeth Stanley, Institute of Criminology, Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington
United Kingdom (NZ citizen) Professor Magdalena Harris
United KingdomProfessor Shadd Maruna
United KingdomProfessor Adam R Winstock, Consultant Psychiatrist
AustraliaProfessor Nicole Lee, 360Edge
AustraliaProfessor Jason Ferris 
USAProfessor Carl Hart
CountryDoctors (PhD/MD) Supporting the HRCA Open Letter
New ZealandDr Alice Mills
New ZealandDr Brin Ryder
New ZealandDr Carol Harrington
New ZealandDr Daniel Greenblatt
New ZealandDr Fiona Hutton, Associate Professor in Criminology 
New ZealandDr Geoff Noller, Substance Use and Policy Analysis
New ZealandDr Helen Fitt
New ZealandDr Isa Pearl Ritchie 
New ZealandDr Jez Weston
New ZealandDr Joel Pitt, PhD
New ZealandDr John Marks MB ChB (Edin), FRCPsych, FRANZCP
New ZealandDr Julian Buchanan, DipSW, MA, PhD, Former UNODC Advisor
New ZealandDr Laura Joyce, Emergency Medicine Specialist
New ZealandDr Lynzi Armstrong
New ZealandDr Michael Roguski 
New ZealandDr Peyton Bond
New ZealandDr Rhys Ponton, PhD, BPharm, RegPharmNZ
New ZealandDr Rose Crossin
New ZealandDr Sally Day
New ZealandDr Samantha Keene, Senior Lecturer in Criminology
New ZealandDr Sophie Beaumont 
AustraliaDr Cheneal Puljevic, The Loop Australia
AustraliaDr Kathryn Daley - Senior Lecturer in Youth Work and Youth Studies, RMIT University. 
AustraliaDr Melissa Jardine, Global Law Enforcement and Public Health Association
AustraliaDr Monica Barratt
AustraliaDr Peta Malins, Senior Lecturer, Criminology & Justice Studies
AustraliaDr Will Tregoning, CEO, Unharm
GermanyDr Fabian Pitter Steinmetz 
IrelandDr Garrett McGovern, Medical Director & GP Specialising in Addiction Medicine, Priority Medical Clinic, Dublin, Ireland
IrelandDr Órfhlaith Campbell
UKDr Jenny Scott
New ZealandAlex H., HRCA Founder
New ZealandLachlan Akers, HRCA Chairperson

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