Julian Buchanan PHD, MA, DIPSW

Home » uncategorised » A critical look at New Zealand’s much hailed drug policy reform

A critical look at New Zealand’s much hailed drug policy reform

See on Scoop.itDrugs, Society, Human Rights & Justice

The HCLU interviewed Peter Dunne, the Minister of Revenue of New Zealand. He explained to us the innovative legislational approach of his country to new psyc…

Julian Buchanan‘s insight:

It’s a great move in principle – but Peter Dunne describes a process designed to curb demand and says the process will be sufficiently lengthy and costly to deter a number of suppliers from proceeding. The threshold for proving the drug ‘safe’ is going to be ‘a very high test’. This doesn’t give much hope that the law is intended in good spirit to allow new substances to become legal and regulated. The framework will be used to deter, stifle and set the bar so high that few (if any?) substances will be approved.

Drug companies not the government have to do all the running, the cost of the trials will be considerable – which is all fair enough. But if the expectations of having to prove the drug as ‘safe’ will be very high it could prove impossible to get any new substance approved.The new NZ law will only be effective if it is made in good faith and enacted in good faith, otherwise new chemical compounds will continue to be distributed as ‘new illegally highs’.


Other countries may look to New Zealand as world leaders in the managements of legal highs – but it may not be all it appears to be – the new regulation could be used as just tweaking the war on drugs and engineered a clever political move that effectively makes it less hassle and stress by banning every ‘legal high’ in one legislative move,  – unless they can be proved safe – which no substance is (even water could be deemed lethal and therefore unsafe – as in excess it has killed people). So if the threshold is very high will anything be able to meet the approval criteria? If they system for approval is little more than a scam then the chemists will continue with the underground market as before.

Sadly in respect of criminal justice New Zealand is terribly punitive – with the 3 strike law adopted from the US, NZ has one of the worst incarceration rates in world, and the over representation of indigenous people in prison is shocking. New Zealand’s record on drugs is punitive too with: around 10% of incarcerations resulting from drug supply/possession; the government prohibited medical marihuana; recently a woman was criminalised for supplying cannabis to her child through her breast milk; new laws by the present government who want to regulate new legal highs, will force people of state benefit to be drug tested and have benefits stopped if they continue to test positive; employees of some government departments are now subject to random drug testing; and following trips to/from USA, NZ has rolled out an Abstinence Drug Court – so this apparent progressive desire to live with drugs and regulate legal highs needs to be seen in this context and questioned.



NZ drug policy is certainly not progressive, will any new legal highs be regulated – we’ll see!

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