The impact of law to 'decriminalise' drugs revealed

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 10:19AM
(Photo / Getty)

The impact of law to 'decriminalise' drugs revealed

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 10:19AM
Police say the failure of a major law change around drugs is due to lack of available services.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, police officers can use their discretion to issue drug users with a health referral, rather than a prosecution.

Roughly 2800 people have been brought to court for drug use/possession between mid-August 2019, when the law came into effect, and the end of March this year, according to police data released under the Official Information Act.

There is little difference in monthly prosecutions for drug use/possession before and after the law change, except for a small spike in prosecutions in April, May and June 2019, which is mainly due to charges for cannabis use.

Police Association president Chris Cahill told Mike Yardley the idea is good in theory, but there are holes in the system.

"The reality is that being able to reach people just isn't in the case, because this doesn't exist. 

"Professional help for addiction was never going to work until we had those services available." 

He says the numbers don't show the full picture.

"If they bring them back to the police station, the sergeant then decides that, if it's only possession or use of drugs by itself, they get a pre-charge warning."

Cahill says the drug charges represented in the recent figures are usually part of larger offences, not first offences or possession.