Drug law proposals set to be rejected

A Law Commission report calling for possible decriminalisation of some drug use and allowing cannabis for medicinal use is set to be rejected by the Government.

The commission said it agreed with vigorous law enforcement on commercial drug dealers, but that there should be less emphasis on punishment of personal possession and use, and more emphasis on delivering effective treatment to addicts.

However, Justice Minister Simon Power says there is no prospect drug laws will be relaxed.

The commission report says there is no doubt that alcohol and illegal drugs both cause harm to the community, but "while the harms and costs associated with alcohol are typically understated and misunderstood, those associated with illegal drugs are often generalised and overblown".

It said the focus of drug laws should be on preventing the harm to others from drug use, not on preventing self-harm or reflecting moral values.

"The (Misuse Of Drugs) Act seems poorly aligned with the policy platform of harm minimisation," it said.

"Its focus is on controlling the supply of drugs by eliminating their illegal importation, production and supply.

"The use of drugs, even by those who are dependent on them, is largely treated as a matter solely of criminal policy rather than health policy. It should, however, be the concern of both."

The commission said evidence suggested that drug regulations neither increased nor decreased drug use, and that for personal use the law would best focus on dealing with the harm the drug use caused.

"We think that the criminal justice system has a key role to play in identifying individuals whose drug use is causing harm and diverting them into drug education, assessment and treatment.

"Simply punishing a drug user, without taking steps to address their drug use, is a wasted opportunity."

The commission suggested three options when police found personal drug use:

- Police could issue up to three caution notices, with someone receiving a third caution assessed with a view to receiving treatment. A prosecution would follow any further uses.

- Police issuing infringement notices requiring a fixed monetary penalty for less serious drugs.

- A menu of options ranging from cautions or infringements to referral to drug assessment to prosecution.

When a prosecution was commenced, options included:

- Greater use of the police adult diversion scheme;

- Less severe penalties, possibly extending the presumption against imprisonment for use of Class C drugs to all personal use offences;

- Court-based diversion into assessment and treatment.

The commission also questioned whether possession of utensils for the purpose of using drugs should be a criminal offence.

It also said cannabis should be allowed for medicinal purposes, provided the potential for misuse could be controlled.

It said cultivators of cannabis should be licensed, which would minimise the risk the drug would be diverted into illegal activity.

To help addicts, the commission suggested there was place for a limited compulsory civil detention and treatment regime provided it had appropriate safeguards.

Mr Power said that while he was prepared to listen to submissions, "there's not a single, solitary chance that as long as I'm the Minister of Justice, we'll be relaxing drug laws in New Zealand".

"The Prime Minister has made the war against P and drugs a key part of his leadership and as long as I'm the Minister of Justice, we will not be relaxing drug laws."


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10 Comments & Questions

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Who needs "experts" or "evidence"?
As long as Simon Power is the Minister of Justice then expertise and evidence will be irrelevant, because "Drugs Are Bad!!".

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whilst prohibition and the war on drugs are with us, we will continue to hand an illegal market over to drug gangs.

We need to end prohibition, and politicians refuse to talk about it, because we the people let them get away with it.

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It's such an oxymoron that successive governments and politicians allow/encourage tobacco and alcohol consumption / abuse (without any consumer/nutritional info anywhere on any beer/alcohol packaging - why is that now?) yet scream blue murder over some marijuana - a God made natural plant.

http://www.leap.cc/cms/index.php

Read what other law enforcement people outside NZ have to say about the politics of marijuana. If consenting adults wish to grow and use pot in their own home for medicinal or recreational use - let them. They will be more informed and less "harmed" than recreationally using alcohol or tobacco - so why the moral outrage from politicians completely ignoring "experts"?

Decriminalize pot for personal use, or even better regulate it so the government can monitor and collect tax revenue like in California and elsewhere in the USA.

Politicians expressing moral outrage and claiming the moral high road surrounding all the issues over pot are just posturing to the electorate - instead of focusing on issues of man-made poisons such as tobacco and alcohol - where the consumer can not get any "nutritional information" on such products. Why?

200 million people worldwide are not criminals because they elect to use pot - it's a God made natural plant - get over it! Hemp can be used for much, much more than trying to get high off it and we should be exploring "green" options for it's beneficial use.

Come on NZ - don't allow ourselves to be blindsided by the political rhetoric surrounding a natural plant. If people don't like it - don't use it - but don't deny or criminalize other consenting adults because it doesn't fit with your perception of what is or is not "allowed" - when man made poisons (alcohol & tobacco) are heavily taxed to try and offset some of the social costs from these poisons. Hypercritical at the very least!

Strewth!

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Have your say on the Law Commission's proposals for reform to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 at www.talklaw.co.nz/talkdrugs

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Funny definition of being "prepared to listen" you're using there, Power.

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Not to accept any of the law commissions recommendations is one thing. Not to consider them is indefensible. Step down Simon Power. Let someone who understands democracy step in. And Simon, democracy is the one where the politicians work for and represent the will of the people. You didn't even bother to listen!

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Power needs to wake up!

As a non drug taking high tax paying citizen it seems so obvious to me that current drug laws are counterproductive and only benefit organized crime

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A 2003 Ministry of Health Survey showed that 13.7% of New Zealanders (aged 13 - 75) had used cannabis in the last 12 months. I wonder how our criminal system will support punishment of all these criminals?

I think representation in our democratic system is also an issue here when talking about such a large section of the population.

http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesmh/6662

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I must agree with the other, I totally disagree with that, it's simply impossible that drugs could be made legal, even if it's weed,coke, heroin and all the others. Frankly, I think that the best way for these people would be some Drug Treatments, even if it's just a visit, it would be very helpful in the future.

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