Government crackdown on drugs

By Regan Paranihi

The government is tackling the increase of drug-related deaths by dealing with synthetic drugs suppliers and making it easier for those with addiction problems to get treatment following an announcement by Health Minister Dr David Clark and Police Minister Stuart Nash.

Clark says the current approach on drugs is failing to keep Kiwis safe.

"Under current laws, synthetics and other dangerous drugs are killing people and fuelling crime while dealers and manufacturers get rich.

“We need to go harder on the manufactures of dangerous drugs like synthetics, and treat the use of drugs as a health issue by removing barriers to people seeking help."

Nash says front line police have a focus on organised crime and trans-national crime.

"Misuse of drugs remains illegal and people should not be complacent about the risks of getting caught.  Whether a drug user ends up getting police diversion, goes through an alternative resolution process, or is referred for health treatment, they will still come to the notice of police."

Nash says prosecution for possession is decided on a case-by-case basis and prosecution guidelines are followed by Crown Law.

He adds that fifty-two people were imprisoned for drug possession or use during 2017 and 2018.

"I expect police will continue to prosecute people for possession when appropriate under the guidelines announced today.  It is not a black and white exercise to distinguish between users and dealers.  Factors include the seriousness of the offence, if there are victims, if safety of others is at risk from the drug use, if there is public disorder and if the evidence is sufficient to justify a prosecution."

Clark says the government has allocated an additional $16.6mil to bolster addiction treatment services with $8.6mil set aside for an Acute Drug Harm Response Discretionary Fund over four years.

The fund will help communities respond to serious drug-related issues as well as help those struggling to get off drugs.

"There's no question that more investment in addiction services will be required over time, but the changes we are announcing today clearly demonstrate this government's focus on harm reduction and supporting people to live healthier lives," says Clark.