MPs urged to reconsider allowing police ‘discretion’ over drugs

By May 8, 2019 Recent News

NewsHub 8 May 2019
Family First Comment: It’s important that young people fear prosecution of using illegal drugs because it’s a “deterrent from use”. – Family First NZ

MPs have been pleaded to rethink a clause in proposed drug law reforms that would allow discretion for police to prosecute for possession and use of drugs.

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill intends to address the harm caused by synthetic drugs, and others, by ensuring that those who import, manufacture, and supply the drug are targeted – not those who use them.

But some submitters to select committee on Wednesday said they’re concerned about “discretion” not being clear enough. They also said the “therapeutic” approach might encourage young people to try drugs.

Ross McCook, chief executive of Auckland charity group Heart for Youth Trust, said while he had no arguments about cracking down on synthetic drugs, he was concerned about the health-based approach expected of police.

“How can police make that decision? What does that even mean?” he asked. “Police are going to throw their hands up and say it’s too difficult.”

McCook added: “Criminal conviction is the only thing stopping children from trying drugs. We need compassion but we also need a bar that’s going to be preventative.”

Under the proposed law changes, people caught possessing and using illegal drugs would face lighter charges. Police would not prosecute for possession, and personal use would merit an approach where users would be considered for rehab.

Bob McCoskrie, national director of conservative Christian lobby group Family First New Zealand, told MPs it’s important that young people fear prosecution of using illegal drugs because it’s a “deterrent from use”.

McCoskrie said: “We support the intent of the Bill to allow [police] consideration [of a health-based approach], but not requirement of a health-based approach for low-level or first-time drug use and possession.”

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