“The Law Commission delivered a 2001 report calling, by any other name, for the decriminalisation of drugs: to repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act. In the past two years, another two far more transformational reports – He Ara Oranga/Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry, and Turuki! Turuki!/Safe and Effective Justice Review – have been delivered to Labour Party ministers, for health and justice respectively. The latter is so bold as to suggest legal regulation of all drugs.
Nobody, from fundamentalist opposition through to Labour ministers, can seriously suggest that a narrow loss for one specific, niche law on cannabis shuts down dialogue on how we tackle all drug harm, from alcohol to methamphetamine. Such a referendum result does not erase the detailed expert reports that politicians commissioned to help build a mandate for change.
They’ve got that mandate as elected representatives; as people who campaigned to improve lives, reduce the prison population and improve mental health; as decision makers responsible to heed the science, let alone the science they asked for.
It’s leadership. It’s time to repeal and replace the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, lest we keep messily and unsatisfactorily carving out bits here for medicinal cannabis, there for drug-checking, here for hemp products, there for synthetics and methamphetamine harm.
The referendum debate highlighted a major area of consensus: New Zealanders want drugs treated as a health issue, and there’s work to do on the how. That’s not coming off the agenda.”