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.
The Commission will review the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and make proposals for a new legislative regime consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations concerning illegal and other drugs.
The issues to be considered by the Commission will include:
(a) Whether the legislative regime should reflect the principle of harm minimisation underpinning the National Drug Policy;
(b) What is the most suitable model or models for the control of drugs;
(c) Which substances the statutory regime should cover;
(d) How should new psychoactive substances be treated;
(e) Whether drugs should continue to be subject to the current classification system or should be categorised by some alternative process or mechanism;
(f) If a classification system for categorising drugs is retained, is the current placement of substances appropriate;
(g) The appropriate offence and penalty structure;
(h) Whether the existing statutory dealing presumption should continue to apply in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hansen case;
(i) Whether the enforcement powers proposed by the Commission in its report on Search and Surveillance Powers are adequate to investigate drug offences;
(j) What legislative framework provides the most suitable structure to reflect the linkages between drugs and other similar substances;
(k) Which agency or agencies should be responsible for the administration of the legislative regime.
It is not intended that the Commission will make recommendations with respect to the regulation of alcohol or tobacco in undertaking this review.