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Date published: 23rd May 2013 | Type: Media release

The overwhelming result in favour of decriminalisation on last night’s The Vote, shows New Zealand is ready to ditch our outdated drug laws and move to health-focused solutions, the New Zealand Drug Foundation said today.

“New Zealand’s outdated drug law is causing harm, particularly for young people, which is why we advocate for healthy drug law,” New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said.

“Seventy-eight percent of people who voted on The Vote last night supported decriminalisation, this shows an appetite for change and a wider discussion around these complex issues.

“Decriminalisation does not mean a free-for-all and it does not mean that we’re soft on drugs, it means that we’re facing up to the problem and tackling it head on.

Mr Bell said that New Zealand’s serious drug problem was a result of our current approach.

“There is no other health problem that we expect our justice system to fix. Instead of criminalisation for possession or use of drugs, we need better education and treatment options available,” Mr Bell said.

“Sadly, New Zealanders are the biggest users of cannabis in the world. This is not something we should be proud of.

“We are giving our young people convictions and sending them to jail instead of giving them help. This is not just costing our young people, it’s costing the country.

“New Zealand spends $100 million a year on police enforcement, and over 300,000 police hours every year on enforcing these laws. In the past five years, almost $13 million has been spent to just lock people up for possession of cannabis.”

Mr Bell said consensus needed to be built around a new approach to drug law.

“The current system is simply not working to reduce the harm caused by drugs in our communities. In fact it makes it worse by criminalising and stigmatising the people who need the most help.

“A health focus has been proven to work overseas. Thirty countries have decriminalised, 17 US states have decriminalised, and people might not realise this but Australia, just across the Tasman, have been doing this for 25 years.

“New Zealanders are ready for a 21st century drug law that supports, not punishes,” Mr Bell said.

Mr Bell said the debate around cannabis, decriminalisation and its health effects, needed to continue.

“To inform the debate around cannabis, the Drug Foundation is holding an International Drug Policy Symposium on Cannabis and Health in November this year,” Mr Bell said.

“By bringing together some of the best minds about cannabis and health from around the world, we hope to build knowledge and consensus on these complex issues.

Find out more about the Cannabis and Health Symposium

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