Sunday , June 20 2021

MPs need to "go to the conversation" and decriminalize the use of drugs, say the Greens



The Green Party says it's time for politicians to start talking about drug policy and reducing drug use, so users can access healthcare without fear of the law.

But with New Zealand first of all such an issue should be put to New Zealand in a referendum, drug reform law is unlikely to be forthcoming.

An independent report on drug policy, published today, said that access to reduction of damage to regulated sale of legal hashish will show up to half a billion dollars a year in social benefits and tax revenues.

She looked at the costs and benefits of applying the policy of the NZ Drug Foundation, which seeks to abolish the use and possession of all illegal drugs, to legalize and regulate cannabis, and to increase treatment services.

The report said decriminalizing all drug use would see savings of $ 34 million to $ 83 million a year, mainly through reducing criminal law costs ($ 27 to $ 46 million per year).

At least $ 225 million in social benefits – such as better results for people who avoid evil – will come from an additional $ 150 million investment in addiction treatment, while a regulatory framework for cannabis regulation will see $ 185 million to $ 240 million in tax revenues.

The Green Party Drugs and Law Reform spokeswoman Chloe Swarbrick called on Parliament to act urgently, noting the death of a synthetic mannequin man in Napier last week.

"This report backs up the case of effective removal of criminalization for users for those in their possession and therefore they have no fear when trying to access health services," Swarbrick said.

"It reads the bluff on the rhetoric of politicians who spoke about wanting to treat it as a health problem, which is what treats it as a health issue."

A report by the National Committee for Further Care in 2011 noted that 50,000 drug users seek help each year but do not accept it, while a Health Ministry survey found that 16.5 percent of drug users do not seek help for fear of the law.

Politicians across the spectrum call for damage reduction, and Seaverbrick said the report calls them "to talk."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government would release a statement on synthetic drugs, which have been linked to 45 deaths in the past year, "very soon."

But Health Secretary David Clarke said that the issue of decriminalization would take time to consider.

"Throughout the world, there is some evidence that legalization or reduction of approaches has reduced damage, we want to carefully take every step as we look at these problems … For example, we know that we do not want children to access drugs.

"We're not going to rush to anything."

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters said any question of decriminalization should be put to the New Zealand public in a referendum.

"I think New Zealand has such an idea, and some wisdom, and as much experience as possible to answer this question like the pharmaceutical fund, or any MP."

Party leader David Seymour said New Zealand should watch Canada's experiences, where cannabis is legal, and Portugal, where drug use is excessive.

"It is a worthy debate that there are too many people being hurt by drugs under the status quo.

"I think it would be better if the government was getting income tax from drugs and not half the police force running around in Sana looking for plants, but there are other aspects to consider."


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