Last month I blogged about the utter hypocrisy of one man being sent to prison for possessing cannabis for his own personal use while another, arguably New Zealand’s biggest drug dealer, received a knighthood in the New Year honours list.
Now the Law Commission has issued a discussion paper Controlling and Regulating Drugs (read the summary first unless you have several hours to spare) that argues for an evidential approach to our drugs policy and legislation that is based on the principle of harm minimisation.
Metiria backed the paper’s suggestions yesterday, saying:
Too often drug policy is driven by emotive responses to specific cases. But we need rational drug policy based on evidence. We need the ability to discuss real alternatives that will keep our communities safer.
We urge the Government to read this report and make workable policy changes. Simply by recognising that people take legal and illegal drugs and that policy should be based around education, prevention and rehabilitation, we have moved closer to solving the problem.
But Justice Minister Simon Power’s response was to back the hypocrisy and stupidity of the current drug laws:
There’s not a single, solitary chance that as long as I’m the Minister of Justice we’ll be relaxing drug laws in New Zealand. … I’m happy to hear what the submissions have to say but I have advised the Law Commission that I have other things on my work agenda.
I wonder if Power read even the summary, let alone the full paper, before saying that. Sure, the paper recommends some changes that could be construed as “relaxation”; such as a formal caution system and/or an infringement notice system for possession of less harmful drugs, and a licensing regime for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
But it also suggests toughening the current law in other areas; such as removing the distinction between supply and sale and introducing an offence of “aggravated possession” for large quantities of illegal drugs, prohibiting any new psychoactive substance from being manufactured, produced or imported without prior approval, and compulsory rehabilitation for users with chronic dependencies.
Ross Bell of the Drug Foundation has called on politicians to engage constructively with the Law Commission’s report. It’s disappointing that the Minister of Justice purports to be too busy with other things to give it more than a few seconds’ consideration.