KnowYourStuffNZ’s submission on the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill

On the reclassification of AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs

Reclassification of substances to increase penalties associated with their use and supply has historically failed to reduce either use or harm.  In this case, because the community most affected by these substances is already marginalised, the reclassification is likely to hurt them more, by increasing stigma, making it harder to seek treatment, and increasing the negative effects of any convictions associated with drug use.

The law that this classification system supports is inadequate and the classification system itself is flawed, therefore it is our view that adding further substances to this is an inappropriate response to drug harm.  We do not support this amendment, and would suggest that a full review of the Misuse of Drugs Act to align it with evidence and the government’s intended health-based approach to drugs would be more effective.

 On discretion around prosecutions for use and possession of all drugs

While moving from a presumption of prosecution to a presumption of non-prosecution with an onus on prosecutors to prove public interest is an improvement on the current situation, we have some concerns. Our main concern is that police discretion has historically been applied unequally, and that the benefits of this change will not reach those who most need it -the poor and marginalised who are currently subjected to the harshest policing.

Additionally, it is our view that the role of the police is to enforce the law, not to interpret it.  Therefore, the law they are required to enforce should be clear enough to be applied equally to all situations. Police should not be required to exercise discretion.

If drugs are an issue of public health, they should be clearly treated as such by the law. This amendment goes some way to acknowledging this, but should only be considered as an interim measure until a full review of the MoDA is implemented.

We support this amendment with reservations.

On the new temporary drug class

We do not consider that the addition of a new class to a flawed system will reduce either use or harm associated with new psychoactive substances. Historically when new drugs have been classified, manufacturers have responded by making more new drugs.  This has led to increased harm as the new substances are generally more potent and less well researched. The new class will make classification faster, however that will most likely only encourage a faster cycle of new drugs emerging.

As an organisation that exists to address the harms associated with illicit drugs and which came into being in a large part because of the dangers of new psychoactive substances, we cannot support a system that encourages the development of more new drugs.

We do not support this amendment, and again recommend that the MoDA undergo a full review to refocus drug legislation away from the minutiae of criminalisation and instead to enable pragmatic and public health focused harm reduction measures.

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