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Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has often spoken in favour of drug law reform, and since being appointed to the Global Commission on Drug Policy late last year, she has been vocally consolidating her position.
Following her appointment, the Commission released a report on the negative public perception of drug use, which has led to a prevailing belief that drug use is immoral, and people who use drugs are a threat to society.
Speaking at the report’s release, Ms Clark said decriminalising drugs was the “hardest of all issues.”
“Why is this? I think it comes back to the problem of the UN conventions, the problem of these certain categories of drugs being seen as criminal activity if you use them. It follows from that that there’s a narrative that says bad people do these things because it is criminal.
“If you’re a person using drugs, you’re a bad person because you’re breaking the law and therefore there will be punishment. Actually the use of drugs requires a health and safety approach, a social policy approach, a safe spaces approach.”
The report said that there are risks involved in all drug use, but the legal status of a drug rarely corresponds to the potential harms of that drug. The prime example would be alcohol, which is more harmful than illegal drugs like cannabis, LSD and Ecstasy.
Ms Clark said many countries could learn from others like Portugal, by stepping up and saying “we’ve got a problem”, then looking at different policy approaches to deal with that problem.
“Really, dealing with the perception of people who use drugs is critical to getting through this barrier.”