26 Jun 2022

Most New Zealanders support change in drug laws - new poll

2:01 pm on 26 June 2022

New polling shows most New Zealanders support changing the country's drug laws to remove criminal penalties and instead offer education, treatment, and other health-based approaches.

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A poll suggests New Zealanders would like to see drug abuse treated with health-based approaches. Photo: backyardproduction/123RF

The new polling, conducted by The Navigators for the NZ Drug Foundation, shows 68 percent of New Zealanders support replacing the country's 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act with a health-based approach.

Sixty-one percent support removing penalties for drug use and instead putting in place more support for education and treatment.

The online survey was conducted in early June of nearly 1500 New Zealanders over the age of 18.

Full information on the poll's results and methodology can be found here.

"These numbers are really heartening - it shows that kiwis know locking people up isn't the answer to reducing drug harm," said Drug Foundation Executive Director Sarah Helm.

"The public increasingly understands that criminal penalties get in the way of people seeking help, and that police time would be better spent on more serious crime."

The Drug Foundation is releasing the new polling on the Global Day of Action for #SupportDontPunish, an international campaign calling for drug policies based on health and human rights.

"Drug policy is often highly politicised, but we know that there is appetite right across Parliament for the types of health-based approaches that will actually work," said Helm.

"For example, there is cross-party support for Te Ara Oranga, the highly successful methamphetamine programme, which has proven a health-based approach can work here in New Zealand on one of our more difficult drug issues. Te Ara Oranga was started by the former National Government and expanded by the current Labour Government."

The polling also showed there is strong support for more funding to be provided for treatment and education (82 percent) and harm reduction initiatives like drug checking (74 percent).

"New Zealanders know it's not just about changing the law - it's about shifting the money we spend on punitive measures into treatment, harm reduction initiatives, and programmes like Te Ara Oranga that struggle for funding at present."

"What New Zealand needs is a constructive approach from our political leaders to fix our broken, outdated drug laws."

Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said the public support shown put more pressure on the government to act.

"Most New Zealanders agree that we all need to have a drug law that's focused on harm reduction, it's common sense and it's evidence-based," she said.

"It's past time that the government got on with it, the excuses are really dwindling at this point."

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