25 May 2024

Should all drugs be decriminalised?

From Saturday Morning, 8:10 am on 25 May 2024
Several pills of MDMA (Extasy) on white table distributed by drug dealer

Photo: 123RF

More than 150 experts have signed an open letter calling on the NZ Government to legalise and regulate all psychoactive substances. 

The letter marks the launch of the Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa, which aims to reduce the negative consequences of drug use in a way that upholds people's dignity and rights.

It's an idea already in practice in different corners of the world - including Portugal where possession of illicit substances for personal use was decriminalised in 2001.

Canada followed in January 2023, with the province of British Columbia, kicking off a three-year trial that allows adults to possess up to 2.5 grams of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine or meth without being arrested, charged, or having their drugs seized - except around schools and airports. 

However, just over a year into the project it has come under increasing pressure from opponents who have called it a 'harmful experiment'. 

Recently some of the measures have been rolled back. Public drug use is now re-criminalised, while drug possession in private homes is still legal.

Joining us to discuss are Dr Nuno Capaz, of Lisbon's Dissuasion Commission of Drug Addiction,  Dr Lindsey Richardson from the BC Centre on Substance Use, and Dr Fiona Hutton,  a member of the Harm Reduction Coalition Aotearoa.