Greens: Act quickly on drug policy
New Zealand needs to inhale some of the new drug policies being adopted internationally or end up "on the wrong side of history" in the wake of the failing war on drugs, the Green Party says.
The subject of decriminalising drugs in New Zealand has raised its head following the release of a report by medical journal the Lancet and Johns Hopkins University, which says countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic had shown that decriminalising non-violent offences such as possession and petty sale produced compelling health benefits.
The policy also led to cost savings and did not increase problem drug use.
The report essentially condemns the war on drugs and says the punitive approach to people taking drugs had failed, says Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague.
"What's happening internationally right now is that the consensus that has previously existed around prohibition has virtually completely crumbled.'
The Greens supported the move towards decriminalisation and a more health-focused approach to drugs, and regulating drugs depending on how much harm they caused.
The Government's five-year policy on drugs, released last year, was a step forward, Mr Hague said.
However the time frame was too slow.
Countries would be adopting a variety of legalising and decriminalising models. New Zealand had to keep abreast of what others were doing and also act.
"Otherwise we will be stranded on the wrong side of history."
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who is in charge of the 2015-20 national drug policy, has said the legally punitive approach has not worked and drugs needed to be treated as a health issue.
However, there was practically no political support for decriminalisation of cannabis.
"That's a long way down the track and not really the focus of current discussions."
The UN General Assembly holds a special session on drugs next month at which it will reconsider the global approach to illicit drugs for the first time since 1998.