By Don Rowe, for The Spinoff
A ‘health based’ approach to drug enforcement is one step closer to being written into law after the third reading of the Misuse of Drugs Act Amendment Bill. Don Rowe reports.
The Misuse of Drugs Act Amendment bill has passed its third reading tonight in what MPs and harm reduction advocates are calling the most significant reform in the Act’s 44 year history.
Under the amendment, the police right to exercise discretion when it comes to prosecuting drug-related crimes will be codified into law for the first time. Police will now be required to avoid prosecution in cases where a health-based or therapeutic approach would prove more beneficial.
Police were previously empowered to exercise their discretion, operating under a system of decriminalisation de jure, however while politically convenient, it led to a disproportionate rate of Māori convictions.
In an impassioned speech during debate, Chlöe Swarbrick, who has led the Green’s reform efforts, called the bill “a triumph for compassion and a triumph for common sense”.
“The arc of moral history is long but today it bends towards justice.”