Back to top

[ Skip to main content ]

The way New Zealand responds to drugs is not keeping up with a changing world. A move to treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one is long overdue. In July 2017 the Drug Foundation released Whakawātea te Huarahi, a bold roadmap for drug law reform in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The model drug law is based on evidence and research from New Zealand and around the world about the best way to reduce the harms caused by both drugs and our current drug law. We recently released an independent economic analysis of drug law reform which shows the model also makes financial sense.

‘Whakawātea’ means to clear, free up, cleanse or purify spiritually, while ‘huarahi’ is a pathway, road or track. The title of our model drug law is intended to signify a fresh start for the debate on drug policy and a sense of movement towards a better future.

Our model drug law proposes:

  • Removing criminal penalties for the possession, use and social supply of all drugs
  • Developing a strictly regulated cannabis market
  • Putting more resources into prevention, education and treatment.

The current laws prevent people accessing help when they need it, and they leave thousands every year with a conviction that impacts on employment, relationships and travel. Implementing the model drug law will minimise the harms caused by drug use, while promoting human rights and improving equity for Māori. 

The document is intended to be a conversation starter. We'd love to know what you think - share your feedback.

Download Whakawātea te Huarahi

Read the economic analysis on drug law reform

An independent report by Sense Partners confirms that not only can New Zealand create a safer legal system, but the economics stack up. 

The government is amending the Misuse of Drugs Act

The government have put forward changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act. This will bring New Zealand closer to treating drug use as a health issue. You can check out what we think of the proposed changes and get updates here.

Want to run a drug law reform workshop in your community?

Drug policy is an important issue, and can be difficult to talk about. So we’ve designed a workshop toolkit to help locals and community organisations run their own hui on drug policy reform. It explains how drug policy impacts Aotearoa New Zealand, and gives a breakdown of Whakawātea te Huarahi. The workshop is interactive and adaptable so you can make it suit your audience and community.

Download the community consultation toolkit and please contact us if you have any questions.

Watch an introduction to Whakawātea te Huarahi

Feedback form and more background

e substance newsletter promotional thumbnail
Subscribe to email updates

Get regular news, analysis and commentary on drugs issues in New Zealand. Free.

Sign up now!

Did You Know resources thumbnail
Talk drugs with young people

Did You Know helps you talk with a young person about drugs -- videos, posters and conversation starter.

Get started