During the event today, the organization said that current laws made criminals out of citizens, noting that the more effective approach would be to treat drug use as a health issue.
If this type of decriminalization policy were to be adopted into law, the commercial supply and trafficking of drugs would still be a criminal offense, but simple possession would not lead to any criminal penalties.
The NZDF compared the idea to the Portugal model, which they said produced early positive evidence of reduced drug use, fewer prisoners and court cases, a reduction in HIV infections, and fewer overdoses.
In the proposed decriminalization scenario, anyone found in possession of drugs would be issued a “mandatory caution” and would also receive health information and legal advice. If caught multiple times, the individual would be required to attend an intervention session run by an alcohol and drug treatment service, where a range of non-compulsory treatment options would be available.
The conference also featured a presentation from the Chair of Canada’s legalization task force and former Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan. McLellan offered some insight into the current legalization process in Canada, and why the Great White North chose to go down the path of ending cannabis prohibition.
McLellan said that any legalization plan must come with relentless and aggressive public education programs. “Public education is going to be key here, and one of the things we heard in places like Washington and Colorado was that you begin your public education campaign as soon as possible,” said McLellan. Similar to Canada, the most commonly used illegal substance in New Zealand is cannabis.
While the Drug Foundation Symposium takes place, the New Zealand Parliament is preparing to debate a private member’s medical marijuana bill that was submitted by Green Party Member, Julie Anne Genter.
This new medical marijuana bill comes on the heels of an announcement from Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, stating that doctors in the Kiwi nation were now permitted to prescribe CBD.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett