Accusations of use or possession of any drug will rarely be subject to a law that attempts to bring drug laws under a health-based approach, MPs said.
And while there appears to be broad support for a focus on health, Parliament's select health committee was informed today that there would be no point without a massive injection of resources into health and dependency services across the country.
The Drug Amendment Amendment, currently before the commission, is the Government's response to the synthetic cannabis crisis and would classify the synthetic drugs AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A drugs; Class A drug traffickers face a lifetime in prison.
It would also codify police discretion into law, clarifying that a charge for use or possession of drugs – regardless of which drug – should only be prosecuted if it were in the public interest, taking into account whether a "health-focused or therapeutic approach would be more beneficial ".
Several submissives, including the Law Society and the Police Association, told the committee that drafting the bill would effectively decriminalize all use and possession of drugs, because it would be easy to argue in court that all users would benefit more from a therapeutic approach to the drug. what an accusation.
Association chairman Chris Cahill told the committee that the bill was effectively telling the police to move from a presumption of default to a non-prosecution for all drug users, which would lead to a "dramatic" decline in police charges .
Although the association does not have a position for or against decriminalization, it said that it was a question that should have a wider public debate than "falling into the scope" of a bill that dealt mainly with synthetic drugs.
Following the hearing, Cahill told the Herald that if the government wanted the police to use discretion, it should withdraw the clause from the bill that said "an accusation should not be brought unless it is required in the public interest."
"For us, there is a subtle distinction [if the clause is not dropped] that the cops would see and say: "They are actually directing us not to charge people [possessing or using] any drugs. & # 39; "
The government has not described the law as decriminalization, but the National Party has.
Legal Society spokesman Chris Macklin told the commission that drafting the bill would make it easier for a lawyer to argue that an accusation should never have been made.
National MP Michael Woodhouse asked Macklin, "Can you conceive, as a prosecutor, to receive advice from the police that an accusation – for possession alone – of any drug would be in the public interest under this [bill]"
Macklin replied, "No, I can not spot it now."
Macklin joined other submissions, including the Drug Foundation, expressing concern about the amount of drugs that, if found by the police, are supposed to supply; for many drugs, the standard limit is 56 grams.
"O [Supreme] The court said the presumption could be justified in terms of the Bill of Rights if the amount was so high that the purpose of the offer is "almost certain" to reduce or avoid the risk of unfair convictions, "Macklin said.
He noted that the advice of the Ministry of Health says that 56 grams "is worth about a month for an average dependent user, or a few days for some heavy users."
Macklin added that his concern about the potential of unconscious prejudice in the use of police discretion unfairly affects Māori, a concern shared by the Drug Foundation, Drug Development and Development Project Trust and health organization Māori Hāpai Te Hauora.
Macklin suggested that police report how they exercised discretionary power, including statistics on those accused of gender and ethnicity – although Woodhouse suggested that any discrimination could be mitigated by the likelihood that there would be no prosecution.
Many submissives agreed that synthetic drugs were often used to escape the trauma, and it was important not to criminalize the most vulnerable in society, but to help them.
Bell told the media after the hearing that without a substantial increase in drug treatment services, a health-focused approach to reducing drug-related harm was useless.
"There are high expectations about the Welfare Budget at the end of this month that the government prioritizes mental health and addictions, but I'm really nervous that they do not meet our expectations."
He wanted annual funding for alcohol and drug treatment services to double to $ 300 million.
"If we do not see this kind of numbers, I think the government will be criticized quite broadly and fairly."