Pubdate: Thu, 27 Aug 2015
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2015 New Zealand Herald
Author: Nicholas Jones


How severely people are dealt with for possession of illegal drugs or 
drug utensils is to be reviewed.

Officials will focus on whether action is proportionate to how much 
harm an offence causes.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has released the 2015-20 
National Drug Policy, which could significantly reform the treatment 
of drugs such as cannabis.

Mr Dunne said three words - compassion, innovation and proportion - 
were of the utmost importance when developing drug policy.

The policy has been hailed as hugely significant by the NZ Drug 
Foundation, which says it signals an armistice in the "war on drugs".

"[It] all adds up to a signal that changes need to happen with how we 
deal with low-level drug offending," said the foundation's executive 
director, Ross Bell.

The new national drug policy has five priority areas, one of which is 
"getting the legal balance right".

Speaking at the launch of the policy, Mr Dunne said the Ministry of 
Health would work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make 
sure that drug classification decisions were focused on harm.

"They will also commence work to examine whether the laws and 
enforcement around drug possession and utensil possession are still 
reasonable compared to the severity of these offences."

The policy release comes after a judge this month spoke of his 
discomfort in jailing Kelly van Gaalen for two years, after finding 
the respected community member guilty of possession of cannabis for supply.
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