As New Zealand’s general election draws closer, some of the parliamentary candidates have been discussing drug policy; while they may disagree with each other about what needs to be done, many believe that change is necessary.

The 2017 Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium was convened in early July by the NZ Drug Foundation to fuel debate on the subject, and to allow the public to gain greater insight into the potential future of the country’s drug policy in the run-up to September’s general election. As Ross Bell, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation, described in a recent op-ed, “even though we convict thousands of people each year for using drugs, we still have some of the highest use rates in the world”. The failure of New Zealand’s war on drugs seems to be increasingly understood.

A 2016 poll commissioned by the NZ Drug Foundation revealed that almost two thirds of the country’s population supported either the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis for personal use. Ross Bell notes that "this poll shows that it doesn't matter what party people back, there is consistent support to move away from the criminal justice approach to drugs.”

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