Family First NZ is welcoming National’s opposition to the decriminalisation of all drugs. The statements in the Select Committee report of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill echo the exact concerns raised by Family First in their submission regarding the de facto decriminalisation of possession and use of all drugs including cannabis, cocaine, P and heroin.
Maintaining the illegality of drugs is important because we should continue fighting drugs and the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general. Police discretion is already being used by the Police. They say: ‘Officers apply discretion on a daily basis in dealing with a range of matters, including the possession and use of drugs. Applying this discretion increasingly includes the use of alternative resolution options including pre-charge warnings, Te Pae Oranga, and referrals to health and other support services. Our focus continues to be on targeting the organised criminal networks who supply these harmful drugs to our communities. However, the possession and use of illicit drugs remains illegal and prosecution remains an option in order to prevent harm and keep people safe.’ In the 20 years to 2014, the number of arrests for cannabis per 100,000 head of population dropped by 70%.
A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping all drugs illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy.
But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise mind-altering products which will simply add to social harm?
If we listen to drug advocates internationally, there will be further calls for the legalisation of all these drugs. The Drug Foundation has already admitted that it wants to legalise cannabis and decriminalise all other drugs. They have also admitted that their expectation is that Police should never prosecute for possession of drugs. This is a shocking scenario and sends a terrible message to families and communities affected by drug abuse.
Maintaining its illegality but using a smart arrest policy combined with the coercion of the law is the correct response to drug use. Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains.
- supports the intent of the bill to allow consideration (but not requirement) of a health-based approach for certain cases of low-level and/or first-time drug use & possession
- opposes any change to the legal status of marijuana and other drugs (separate from the Class A drugs proposed in this bill) because of the significant health and addiction issues around recreational drug use, and the need for the law to reflect those and to protect society
- calls for increases in resources and funding for both drug prevention programmes, and addiction and mental health services
Family First also submitted that a child-centered drug policy is an imperative. Protecting children from illicit drug use is not an option for States / Parties to the United Nations Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is an obligation. Therefore, drug policy in NZ must be child-centered, not user-centered.
In a shock poll result released in April, less than 20% (one in five) New Zealanders support legalisation of marijuana, but there is strong support for lifting restrictions for medical use (65%). There is also significant concerns about the mental health and societal costs of cannabis.