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A petition calling on the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to back up her call to treat drug use as a health issue has been launched by the NZ Drug Foundation along with other health and social justice organisations.

A petition calling on the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to back up her call to treat drug use as a health issue has been launched by the NZ Drug Foundation along with other health and social justice organisations.

The Prime Minister is being urged to double investment for drug-related treatment and harm-reduction in Budget 2019. This means investing an extra $150 million each year.

“We’re shocked that more than fifty New Zealanders have died from synthetic cannabinoids yet there hasn’t been more action”, said Ross Bell, Executive Director of the Drug Foundation. “There is a lot that can be done to stop this crisis in its tracks. One of the most important is to offer more treatment options and expand practical harm reduction services.”

“More funding for addiction treatment is overdue. We’re only catering to around half of existing needs. That’s simply unacceptable while people are dying. Investing in health and treatment is what we’d expect from a government committed to taking a health based approach to drugs.”

Spending on health offers better value than continuing to pour resources into the criminal justice system. An independent cost benefit analysis released by the Drug Foundation earlier this month found that by investing an extra $150million in drug-related health interventions, we could return a social benefit for New Zealand of at least $225million, and probably significantly more.

The petition also calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that people using synthetics and other dangerous drugs get a referral to health and other services, not a criminal conviction.

“We think New Zealanders support us on this more compassionate way ahead. One of the many problems with the penalising people for taking drugs is that it stops them accessing the services that could help them,” Mr Bell explains.  

“New Zealand’s high rates of harmful drug use, and the terrible toll this plays in our communities has been made so much worse by outdated drug laws and underinvestment in treatment. It’s time to make a change for the better.”

The Drug Foundation has joined forces with Te Rau Matatini, Hāpai te Hauora, the NZ Needle Exchange Programme, JustSpeak and ActionStation to push for health focused drug law reform and better investment in treatment. The six organisations are working together to ensure people can access the help they need and to move away from a system that ruins lives by handing out convictions for minor drug offences.

All New Zealanders are invited to join us in signing this petition to send a message to the Prime Minister. Petition link: bit.ly/2Fxbx84



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