Controlling and Regulating Drugs
The New Zealand Law Commission was asked to address the efficacy of the Misuse of Drugs Act in reducing the demand for, and supply of, drugs prohibited under the International Drug Conventions. The Commission has recommended the existing Act be repealed and replaced by a new Act administered by the Ministry of Health. Justice Hammond said the thrust of the proposed new Act is to facilitate a more effective interface between the criminal justice and health sectors: “We need to recognise that the abuse of drugs is both a health and a criminal public policy problem.”
Justice Hammond said while the law must continue to impose heavy penalties on those who profit from the manufacture and sale of illicit drugs, there are compelling arguments for adopting a more holistic approach to individual drug offending, particularly when it is driven by addiction. “There is clear evidence that treatment can be cost effective. Some studies estimate that for every $1 spent on addiction treatment, there is a $4 to $7 reduction in the cost associated with drug-related crimes.”
The report makes 144 recommendations for a new legislative and policy approach to reducing the country’s drug problem, and is a result of a comprehensive 2 year review of New Zealand’s drug law.
Among the key proposals contained in the report are:
- A mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use offences that come to the attention of the police, removing minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system and providing greater opportunities for those in need of treatment to access it.
- A full scale review of the current drug classification system which is used to determine restrictiveness of controls and severity of penalties, addressing existing inconsistencies and focusing solely on assessing a drug’s risk of harm, including social harm.
- Making separate funding available for the treatment of offenders through the justice sector to support courts when they impose rehabilitative sentences to address alcohol and drug dependence problems;
- Consideration of a pilot drug court, allowing the government to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of deferring sentencing of some offenders until they had undergone court-imposed alcohol and/or drug treatment.
- Review drags drug law into 21st Century, New Zealand Drug Foundation press release, May 3, 2011
- Drug Law Reform: Lessons from the New Zealand Experience, by Sanji Gunasekara, TNI Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 8, August 2010
New Zealand Law Commission