BY CHRIS FOWLIE
The Government has announced a review of the National Drug Policy and this means it is your chance to have your say.
The current policy is harm minimisation, which means policies and government agencies should
seek to reduce overall harm even if it means people continue to use drugs. One example is the
needle exchange and methadone network. Another example is NORML’s tips for safer cannabis
The NDP review is to:
assess the effectiveness of the current policy
review the impact of the NDP in terms of stakeholder support and its contribution to reduction of drug related harm
identify options for future drug policy directions
determine the best approach for a future National Drug Policy including the relative focus on strategic versus action oriented approaches
develop a draft Strategy for endorsement by Government, including a process for evaluating the effectiveness of that
New Zealand led the world in introducing this policy, and although evidence shows harm minimisation is the most effective policy, it is not without it’s critics including many politicians who campaign on “tough on crime” platforms. This includes United Future’s Peter Dunne, who has tried to get the wording of the policy changed so that it is more orientated around abstinence.
The document outlines areas of supply control, demand reduction and problem limitation. Proposals range from toughening law enforcement, better drug education, more work on pricing
and tax policy for alcohol and tobacco, and improving access to treatment. It also said more
needed to be done on collecting data.
Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said the policy tried to take a more economic view of the harms caused by drugs, rather than just the health effects. He emphasised legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco caused far more harm than illegal drugs — between 70-90 per cent of criminal activity related to alcohol use and 4700 deaths a year were from tobacco use.
Five regional meetings will be held in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Separate hui, with a focus on issues for Maori, will be held in Auckland, Wellington,
Christchurch, Whangarei, Gisborne and Rotorua. Written or emailed submissions can also be made. The cannabis inquiry held from 1999-2003 was greatly promising until the evidence was overridden by the politics and grandstanding. Don’t let it happen again. Have your say and help make New Zealand’s drug policy evidence-based.
Other law changes in the pipeline include:
- Sale of Liquor Act – review of the drinking age and advertising
- Tobacco – Hone Harawira’s bill to extend cannabis prohibition to tobacco will be similarly disastrous.
- Proceeds of Crime Act – oppose Phil Goff’s bill to increase police powers and reverse the burden of proof when seizing assets from suspects.
We encourage you to get involved in the political process for these bills. Write a submission and have your say. Make your views known. The draft document is available at www.ndp.govt.nz and you have until 26 May to make a submission.
(NORML News Autumn 2006)