The Global Commission on Drug Policy – of which former PM Helen Clark is a member – has a flawed approach to drug use in our society, and is more focused on the rights of individuals to live in a drug-friendly society than it is in the welfare, safety and health of the community. It is also at odds with 129 countries including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom who have signed the Global Call to Action.
The GCDP wants to legalise all drug use, and wants policies based on ‘human rights’ and which remove the ‘stigmatisation’ and ‘marginalisation’ of people who use drugs.
Drug users should receive all the help they can to overcome their addiction and to become drug-free, but the health, rights and protection of the general public should take precedence over the drug users. Being drug-free should be the ultimate goal, not the normalisation of drug use. Legalising drugs will increase drug use and the need for drug treatment, while making it harder to keep communities safe.
Reducing demand is a health issue
The GCDP argues for drugs to be treated as a ‘health issue’, but reducing the demand is a vital step because of the many health harms of drugs We know from New Zealand research alone that the use of cannabis is associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. Use of drugs by pregnant mums is also of major concern.
It is ironic that many of the members of the GCDP – including Helen Clark – have a connection to the UN. There is no such thing as a universal right enshrined in any United Nations documentation safeguarding a person’s use of illicit drugs. In fact, the United Nations’ Right of the Child, Article 33, specifically states that Member States ‘shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances’. The United Nations Drug Conventions specifically deny that drug use is a human right. And President Obama’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy focused on both public health and public safety and the importance of preventing drug use.
“Why does the GCDP back the drug user as if they have an inalienable right to use drugs, free of any consequence or consideration of the rights of families and communities? Their call for the removal of the ‘stigmatisation and marginalisation’ of drug users is essentially a call for the wider community to ignore the well-established and unequivocal harms of drugs, and to back a drug-friendly right-to-drugs culture.
New Zealanders are right to turn their back to this radical and flawed ideology.
The New Zealand Drug Harm Index 2016 estimates the social cost of drug-related harms and intervention costs in 2014/15 as NZ$1.8 billion. This covers the cost of personal harm and community harm, and the need for interventions by agencies to address the associated harms including health, education and law enforcement.
GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION
New Zealand should support the Global Call to Action signed by Australia, Canada, UK and over 100 other countries. The action plan calls for a four-pronged strategy:
(1) reduce demand for illicit drugs through education, awareness, and prevention of abuse;
(2) expand treatment efforts to save lives and promote recovery;
(3) strengthen international cooperation across judicial, law enforcement, and health sectors; and
(4) cut off the supply of illicit drugs by stopping their production, whether through cultivation or manufacture, and flow across borders.
“Drug policies must be rooted in science”
Gil Kerlikowske – director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Obama Administration (2009 – 2014)