It has been more than 30 years since the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 was first enacted. The Act has been amended on numerous occasions and is complex and difficult to understand and navigate. The Act’s framework is based on the recommendations of the 1973 report of the Blake-Palmer Committee and largely reflects the drug policies and issues of that era. There is concern that the Act is not well aligned with New Zealand’s National Drug Policy and does not provide a coherent and effective legislative framework for responding to the use of psychoactive drugs. The objective of the review was to propose a contemporary legislative framework for regulating drugs that is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations concerning illegal and other drugs and reflects current knowledge and understanding about drug-related harm.
The Final Report Controlling and Regulating Drugs: A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 (NZLC R122, 2011) was released on 3 May 2011.
The Commission released a report Compulsory Treatment for Substance Dependence: A Review of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966 (NZLC R118, 2010) on 27 October 2010. This aspect of the Commission’s broad review of the misuse of drugs was prioritised to ensure it was completed within the timeframe set for the review of that Act in the Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan.
References to the review in the media
Public Address–Hard News 'But seriously, drug policy' 11 September 2014
Stuff 'The War on Drugs is lost' 16 February 2014
Otago Daily Times 'Cannabis laws not helping - health workers' 1 September 2013
Dominion Post via Stuff 'Legal high rules may be picked up by UK' 15 January 2013
Scoop 'Dunne slays party pill hydra' 16 July 2012
NZ Herald 'Party pill safety move due today' 16 July 2012
Timaru Herald 'Cannabis campaign' 9 June 2012
NZ Herald 'Editorial: Drug courts must not forget victims' 6 March 2012
Dominion Post via Stuff 'New drug court unveiled' 19 October 2011
Dominion Post via Stuff 'Ross Bell: It's time for diversion of dope' 6 October 2011
University of Otago via Scoop 'Cannabis - low/moderate risk to public health' 26 September 2011
NZ Herald 'Govt looks set to reject '3 strikes' 'law on dope' 13 September 2011
Stuff 'Dismay at medicinal cannabis ruling' 9 September 2011
Obtain a Hard CopyAvailable online only.Published 19 Mar 2008
The Commission reviewed the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and made proposals for a new legislative regime consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations concerning illegal and other drugs.
NZLC R118 Compulsory Treatment for Substance Dependence: A Review of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966
Obtain a Hard CopyAvailable online only.Published 27 Oct 2010
The Law Commission’s report, Compulsory Treatment for Substance Dependence: A Review of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966 (NZLC R118, 2010), proposes replacing the out-dated Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966 with a new Act which would make the law more user-friendly, while at the same time providing much greater safeguards for people forced to undergo compulsory treatment.
Obtain a Hard CopyAvailable online only.Published 3 May 2011
The Law Commission has issued its latest report, Controlling and Regulating Drugs – A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 (NZLC R122, 2011).
Among the key proposals contained in the report are:
- A mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use offences that come to the attention of the police, removing minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system and providing greater opportunities for those in need of treatment to access it.
- A full scale review of the current drug classification system which is used to determine restrictiveness of controls and severity of penalties, addressing existing inconsistencies and focusing solely on assessing a drug’s risk of harm, including social harm.
- Making separate funding available for the treatment of offenders through the justice sector to support courts when they impose rehabilitative sentences to address alcohol and drug dependence problems.
- Consideration of a pilot drug court, allowing the government to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of deferring sentencing of some offenders until they had undergone court-imposed alcohol and/or drug treatment.
- Published 11 Feb 2010
Controlling and Regulating Drugs (NZLC IP16, 2010) is an issues paper which traces the history of drug policy and regulation in New Zealand, and reviews the current approach to drug control and regulation. It makes some preliminary proposals for how New Zealand’s drug laws can be updated to put in place a modern and evidence-based statute.
Hard copies of the Issues Paper are not available.
- Published 19 Mar 2008
“The Law Commission’s review of the Misuse of Drugs Act is attracting a lot of attention,” the President of the Law Commission said today. “The Terms of Reference for this inquiry are attached. The Law Commission will be following its usual processes of publishing an issues paper and taking public submissions on it in due course,” Sir Geoffrey said.
Government Response to 'R122 Controlling and Regulating Drugs - A Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975'Published 16 May 2012
The Government response to the Law Commission Report was released on 8 September 2011. When delivering the Government’s official response to the Law Commission’s report, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said that the near 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act will be overhauled and replaced and legislation would be developed to create a new regime for currently unregulated psychoactive substances.
Mr. Dunne said also that the Law Commission’s recommendation that specialist drug courts be established was being progressed separately by Justice Minister Simon Power.
A copy of the Government’s Official Response and the Minister’s speech are available below. A copy of the announcement in respect of the Drug Court pilot is also available below.