23 May 2017

Meth no substitute for weed, Police Minister warns

7:21 pm on 23 May 2017

Police Minister Paula Bennett is warning New Zealanders not to try methamphetamine as a substitute for marijuana, with the price of cannabis driven up by poor growing conditions.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.

Police Minister Paula Bennett: "Don't see P as a substitute to marijuana." Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Ms Bennett said she was "increasingly concerned" about meth, calling the situation in New Zealand "absolutely horrific".

She had heard the price of cannabis had risen and some people were turning to P as an alternative, she said.

"Can I just say to every New Zealander that's thinking that - that actually a bit of a toke on marijuana is incredibly different than actually having a go at P.

"One hit, and you are hooked. It takes an average seven years to get off that addictive substance."

Ms Bennett clarified that New Zealanders should stay away from both drugs and said legalising marijuana was not the solution.

"Don't go near any of them, but certainly don't see P as a substitute to marijuana," she said.

Too many New Zealanders were losing the battle against the "soul-destroying" and "insidious" drug, she said.

"We see families in so many of our towns and cities that are absolutely destroyed because one member is going through the hideous addiction of it."

Labour MP Kelvin Davis said the government had been asleep at the wheel while the meth problem had escalated.

Kelvin Davis

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"You see it up north all the time. P is easier to access than marijuana these days," he said.

"I'm hearing that people don't even bother with weed anymore. If they go to a tinnie house, it's only to get P. Weed's sort of obsolete these days."

He said even prisoners could get their hands on P behind bars.

"It's smuggled in. I'm not saying that everyone can get it within an hour like you can out in the community, but it does happen in prisons. You'd be naive to suggest that it didn't."

Addiction services were "so under-resourced it's ridiculous," he said.

"It's not like this is something that's just jumped up on us last week. This is something that's been in our communities for 15 years plus."

Ms Bennett said the government was tackling both the supply and demand of the drug.

"The demand side is a more of a health response - trying to get fewer people actually experimenting with the drug and getting hooked.

"Right through to the border control and supply and trying to stifle that."

And she said the situation could be "a lot worse", if not for the government's efforts.

"We are capturing more of this stuff than ever before and think that is making a difference," she said.

"We've had the response that was led by then-Prime Minister John Key. I think from memory there were more than 38 initiatives going on."

But Mr Davis said he was unimpressed.

"I'm not aware of any fantastic results from all of that. Sorry," he said.

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