Drug laws kill: Why can’t we have better ones

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 “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them…We're not at war with people in this country.” Director of White House National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske.


US President Richard Nixon coined the phrase “war on drugs” in 1971 – but in some form or another, global efforts to control the drug trade have been running for about 100 years.  The world over, the drug problem is seen as primarily a criminal justice issue. Many countries take the “drug war” metaphor literally and feel the “war” is best fought by people in uniform with guns.  In its most obscene form the drug war results in death and violence: witness the nearly 3000 murdered by the Thai government in 2003; use of the death penalty for drug offences in about 30 countries; forced labour and torture in the name of drug treatment; 23,000 drug war-related deaths since 2006 in Mexico. .  Sadly, a reliance on the criminal justice approach remains, despite a large evidence base showing its ineffectiveness.


There are pockets of hope. Many countries now provide health interventions, such as addiction treatment. There are signs New Zealand is about to turn its back on its punitive approach to people who use drugs.  The public mood for change is being tested through greater spending on health interventions, expected to be announced in the forthcoming “wellbeing budget.” and a 2020 Cannabis Referendum which proposes major changes to our 40-plus-year old drug law.



Our Speaker, Ross Bell, has held his position as executive Director of The Drug Foundation for 15 years. The Drug Foundation takes a lead in Aotearoa NZ in educating advising and standing up for healthy approaches to alcohol and other drugs. They are currently running a “Health not Handcuffs “ drug reform campaign.

June 13th, 2019 5:30 PM   through   7:00 PM
Connolly Hall
Guildford Terrace
New Zealand

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