By Helen Clark / Stuff

New Zealand’s drug laws are increasingly leaving us behind the rest of the world.

The new Biden-Harris Administration in the United States has made racial equality a top priority, and within that the delivery of criminal justice reform. Their Office of National Drug Control Policy has now made an unprecedented statement about its new priorities, which, at its heart, represents the end of the failed repressive approach to drugs in favour of a health-based approach.

The New Zealand Government is clearly of the view that the use and possession of drugs should not be a criminal offence, as demonstrated when it passed the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2019 (MODA). That amendment reminded the police that they have the discretion not to arrest and prosecute for use and supply, and that they should consider in each case whether a health-centred approach might be more beneficial to the public interest.

This amendment isn’t working as well as everyone had hoped, and thousands of New Zealanders continue to be convicted of low-level offences each year. The solution is to overhaul our current law and reformulate it, placing health considerations at the centre of how we deal with drugs.