The Misuse of Drugs Act regulates controlled drugs in New Zealand and establishes offences and penalties for everything from possession to the manufacturing of classified drugs.
Until the public has its say on legalising the personal use of cannabis at the next election, I believe cannabis should remain in the Misuse of Drugs Act. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in New Zealand, for both medicinal and recreational purposes. It might be commonly used, but it can still cause harm. However New Zealanders vote in the upcoming referendum, we should take an approach that first and foremost seeks to reduce drug-related harm. The Ministry of Health reported on its Review of the Psychoactive Substances Act just over a year ago. In summary, officials determined that the Psychoactive Substances Act had not achieved its purpose of protecting health and minimising harm because:
a) It had not enabled the availability of low-risk psychoactive substances through a regulated market (primarily because animal testing provisions limited the ability to prove that products were low risk, and could, therefore, be approved);
b) The continued supply and use of unregulated products had arguably made monitoring and management of associated risks more difficult, and c) Offences and penalties may have been disproportionate to the harm posed by the increasing availability of high-risk products. The Ministry suggested that amending the Psychoactive Substances Act would better enable it to meet its intended purpose, but any changes should be considered as part of a wider drug legislation reform work programme. The Government has since passed the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, which aimed to crackdown on synthetic drug dealers while taking a health-based approach with drug users often caught in the web of addiction. We’ve also commissioned research into drug checking at festivals, to find out whether it helps keep people safe and reduces harm.