Ryan Bridge: It's time to legalise methamphetamine

Portugal's drug overdoses and use has fallen since decriminalisation (file)
Portugal's drug overdoses and use has fallen since decriminalisation (file)

OPINION: Meth-heads should be allowed to visit their local pharmacy for a hit of P.

It's time to not only decriminalise methamphetamine, but legalise it.

Because we're losing the war on drugs. Our current approach to dealing with the P epidemic is not only failing, but making it worse.

By legalising meth, we'd reduce overdoses and take control of the frequency, chemical composition and dose of each hit.

It would give us a better idea of exactly who is addicted and how many addicts are out there.

We could better target health and recovery services to users.

Instead of gangs monopolising the production, distribution and sale of the god-awful drug, lawful private entities could do so under strict regulations.

How would this work?

The War on Drugs

We all know meth is the devil, but our current approach to dealing with the problem is not only failing, but making it worse.

Why would you go and ask for help if you felt you might be arrested and thrown behind bars?

Banning naughty stuff makes people feel good, like they're doing something meaningful, but does little to prevent said naughty stuff from happening.  

Government figures show the number of Kiwis using amphetamines has stayed roughly the same over the past five years - 34,000 in the 2015/16 year.

But social agencies, police, hospitals and even schools are saying the P epidemic is exploding and the price of the drug is actually falling in some areas.

Keep in mind the Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year hunting down and locking up dealers and users.

Imagine if we spent that on counselling and rehab.

The War on Fear

The main reason people don't want to contemplate legalising, or even decriminalising, meth and other drugs is a fear they are somehow condoning them.

More people will smoke P if it's legal, they say. That's irrational.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalised all illicit substances after a nasty war on drugs. Since then, the country's drug use and overdose rates have fallen. Drug-related crime decreased and demand for health clinic and addiction services surged.

The law change was by no means a cure, but it was far from a disaster.

Like highs themselves, nothing's ever straight forward in the world of drug reform.

But one thing is crystal clear. Our current approach isn't working, and unless we do something drastic, the cycle of drugs, crime and imprisonment will only get worse.  

Ryan Bridge is the host of Your Sunday on RadioLIVE. Tune in from 10am for expert analysis and debate on New Zealand's problem with P.