Campaigners for drug law reform in New Zealand have published an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling for an overhaul of the country’s 45-year-old drug laws.
Organisations including NZ Drug Foundation, the Helen Clark Foundation, the NZ Medical Association, Māori Law Society and the Mental Health Foundation say the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 should be repealed and replaced with a “compassionate and evidence-based approach” which treats drug use as a health and social, as opposed to a criminal, issue.
Under the current legislation, it is an offence to possess, cultivate or deal in illegal drugs, including cannabis, which is deemed to be in class C.
The letter claims isolated amendments – such as allowing drug testing at festivals – do not go far enough and that the Government should remove all criminal penalties for low-level drug offences.
The move comes after New Zealand narrowly voted No to the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill last year, which would have allowed people to possess and consume cannabis in limited circumstances.
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm said: “It doesn’t matter whether you are morally opposed to drugs or you have a slightly different take on things, we are actually not doing much about our drug issues.”