Swarbrick putting Ardern, Clark to shame on drug rhetoric and inaction

There are serious and growing drug problems in new Zealand, especially with P (methamphetamine) and synthetic substitutes for cannabis. I have slammed the Government for being shamefully lame as people suffer and die- see  Clark, Ardern shamefully lame not urgently addressing drug problems.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick seems to be a lone voice amongst MPs on taking urgent and effective action (where is James Shaw on this?)

thinks quite a lot::

The War on Drugs has not and will not work. Moral crusades are costing lives. Nowhere in the world has been able to get rid of drugs, or reduce drug harm, by ratcheting up penalties.

With the synthetics crisis, Aotearoa New Zealand has an crucial decision: will we do what works, or will we just do “something”?

The easy “something” is to beat the punitive drum, in an attempt to satisfy people we “take this seriously.” Taking drug harm seriously looks like being brave enough to confront decades of evidence and genuinely treat drugs as a health issue.

Treating drugs as a health issue does not look like locking more people up. We actually have ample evidence to show that increasing penalties fills our jail cells, but doesn’t decrease access or supply to drugs.

Look to Methamphetamine, which has under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 held Class A life imprisonment for decades. There’s been no reduction in demand or consumption, but increases, according to Ministry of Health data.

Evidence demonstrates that the only real way to tackle drugs is to focus on decreasing demand. We have a successful model in the collaboration between Northland DHB&Police, reducing demand for P, shifting resources to health, which we could expand and roll out across the country.

We need to do something, but that something desperately needs to be what works. If we cow to law-and-order rhetoric, if we fail to be courageous enough to pay attention to the research, we’ll repeat our past mistakes.

Repeating our past mistakes is more than not good enough when the evidence shows more of the same will cost people’s lives. Especially when those unnecessary deaths are the catch-cry of those calling for knee-jerk criminalisation.

The believe we need to genuinely treat drugs as a health issue. That looks like ending the War on Drugs. That looks like rejecting greater penalisation, which we all know, because the evidence shows, just won’t work.

Swarbrick could do with more concerted support from other Green MPs on this.

And somehow they need to push Ardern into converting her lofty rhetoric into actual and urgent action. Not just talking about twiddling a bit some time in the future. Urgent reform is required.

Ardern has talked about her government being progressive and wonderful, but she and her ministers are failing to walk the walk on drugs.

Swarbrick is putting them to shame.

Dunne “more than extremely stunned” by National’s ‘war on drugs’ reversal

After Donald Trump promoted continuing the ‘war on drugs’ Simon Bridges said that a National-led government would sign up to it. Peter Dunne, a minister in the last National-led government, says that he is “more than extremely stunned” by this.

On Monday:  National would sign up to international drug effort

A National-led Government would sign up to the latest international push to tackle drugs, overturning the Labour-led Government’s decision not to, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Combatting the manufacture and supply of drugs requires governments and law enforcement agencies from right around the world to work together. And we must share ideas about how to tackle addiction and drug use.

“That’s why the Prime Minister’s decision not to sign New Zealand up to the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem at the UN this week, distancing New Zealand from those international efforts, is concerning.

“More than 120 countries including some of our closest partners from Australia to the US, the UK and Canada have signalled their intention to do their part.

“The Prime Minister’s excuse for not signing up, that the Government is taking ‘a health approach’ isn’t good enough. The strategy calls for countries to do more to address addiction and provide more treatment as well as working more closely together to clamp down on manufacturing and supply.

“Taken together, that’s how we will deal with the drug problem.

“But by distancing New Zealand from that work the Prime Minister risks making New Zealand an easy target and sending the message that her Government is soft on crime and drug dealers.

“This is the latest example of this Government’s soft-on-crime approach. It’s failing to act quickly on synthetic cannabis which continues to become a bigger issue and it’s promising to make it harder for people to be sent to prison and easier for them to get out.

“National will sign up to the agreement, we will support those with drug and alcohol issues but we will also hold those who peddle these drugs to account. The Prime Minister needs to properly explain why she won’t.”

National, particularly Judith Collins but increasingly Bridges, have been running a ‘soft on crime’ campaign against the Government, and Bridges has run this line again here.

Peter Dunne’s response (The Spinoff): I am stunned by National’s somersault in backing Trump’s ‘war on drugs’

Just two years ago I had the privilege as then associate minister of health of addressing the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. That was while the previous National-led government was in office.

In my address I made the following comments:

“Last year at CND 58, I spoke of the importance of three fundamental pillars of drug policy – Proportion, Compassion and Innovation. New Zealand has woven these principles throughout its approach to addressing drug issues, including them as central tenets in its recently launched 2015 National Drug Policy. But perhaps there is a fourth pillar that is missing – boldness. Incremental movement, if any, has been the norm for drug policy development for as long as I can remember – and the movement has not always been forward. As encouraging as the shift has been, the fact is that compared to the global narcotic industries, we are moving at a glacial pace, hamstrung by an outdated overly punitive approach.”

These comments, as noted above, were all consistent with New Zealand’s National Drug Policy adopted by the Cabinet after much debate in 2015. The policy and the speech, and others I gave at the annual UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs meetings through to 2017 made it clear New Zealand rejected the “war on drugs” rhetoric and approach that had dominated international drug policy for too long, in favour of the more compassionate, health centred approach set out in the National Drug Policy.

I am delighted that the prime minister has repeated these messages and confirmed in reality the direction of the National Drug Policy in her address to the UN General Assembly this week, and that she has rejected outright the backward focusing approach of the president of the United States to try to reignite the “war on drugs” when most countries have been looking to move on from that.

That refers to Jacinda Ardern’s address.

However, I am more than extremely stunned that the National Party, which could have claimed the high ground and pointed out she was just copying policy already in place, has instead done a complete somersault on its previous position and apparently now supports the Trump proposition.

It is hard to find – let alone justify – a credible reason for this about-face. Certainly the few public statements I have seen go little beyond the uninformed and the platitudinous. So it becomes difficult to believe that the driving principle behind this decision is anything but a perverse determination to take a different view from Labour, whatever that view might be, and no matter what your own government’s record on the matter. It is a very dark day for National’s ongoing credibility on this issue.

It all seems a far cry from when a New Zealand government minister could stand before the UN General Assembly just two short years ago, and say that our country believed that “responsible regulation is the key to reducing drug-related harm and achieving long-term success in drug control approaches.”

The bipartisan focus on drugs as a health issue seems to have been tossed aside as a political inconvenience, especially when knee jerk opposition for the sake of it is so much easier. That is to National’s ongoing shame.

When in Government National dragged the chain badly on addressing out of control drug problems, but this is a backward step even by their standards.

Hopefully decent change will happen before national get back into government, but Ardern and Labour have a lot of stepping up to do on this, and converting some of their rhetoric into real changes to how we deal with drug problems. So far they haven’t even had the guts to deal with cannabis apart from dabbling on medical cannabis use.

For someone who claims to lead a progressive government the progress on drug law reform is very disappointing so far. If Labour actually got something meaningful done they would put Bridges and national to shame.

129 countries support Trump’s war on drugs, but not New Zealand

Reuters: Some 129 countries sign up to Trump’s pledge at U.N. to fight drugs

Some 129 countries at the United Nations signed on to a U.S.-drafted pledge to fight the global drug problem on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump warned presented a public health and national security threat.

In order to attend the brief U.N. event with Trump, countries had to sign the one-page “call to action on the world drug problem.” Trump held a similar event at the annual gathering of world leaders in New York last year, focused on U.N. reform.

Countries signing the nonbinding U.S. statement pledged to develop national action plans to reduce demand for illicit drugs through education, expand treatment efforts, strengthen international cooperation on justice, law enforcement and health, and cut off the supply by stopping production.

“If we take these steps together, we can save the lives of countless people in all corners of the world,” Trump said in brief remarks.

“Illicit drugs are linked to organized crime, illegal financial flows, corruption and terrorism. It’s vital for public health and national security that we fight drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling that provide the financial lifeblood for vicious transnational cartels,” he said.

But New Zealand gets a mention in opposition:

Among countries that did not sign the U.S. drugs pledge was New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that the United States itself was particularly focused on tackling opioids.

“We have a number of challenges that are quite specific to New Zealand and the particular drugs that are present, but also on taking a health approach. We want to do what works and so we’re using a strong evidence base to do that,” Ardern told reporters on Sunday.

Addiction to opioids – mainly prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – is a growing U.S. problem, especially in rural areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in more than 49,000 deaths in the country last year.

The biggest drug problems here are synthetic concoction alternatives to cannabis and P (methamphetamine).

UN support for trump (CBS News) – Trump to U.N.: “We commit to fighting the drug epidemic together”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres applauded Mr. Trump for “focusing a global spotlight on the world drug problem,” adding, “we have never needed it more.”

Global production of opioids and cocaine has reached an all-time high, with 31 million people around the world requiring treatment for drug use and 450,000 people dying every year from overdoses or drug-related health issues, Guterres told the conference. He called the U.S. opioid crisis “heartbreaking.”

Sharing intelligence among member states, he said, will help the crackdown, and Guterres urged U.N. members to work together to deny safe haven to drug traffickers, pursue kingpins and dismantle their networks.

But Trump’s talk doesn’t match his actions:

Despite campaign promises and a high-level focus on international drug trafficking, Mr. Trump has slashed the U.S. counter-narcotics budget by cutting back on personnel at the State Department and other agencies who fight the international drug trade.

“One of the clearest constraints imposed by these cuts is on our ability to counter global threats, including narcotics,” Brett Bruen, a former White House official who now teaches at Georgetown University, told CBS News.

RNZ yesterday quoted criticism from Simon Bridges in Jacinda Ardern rejects Trump’s call for war on drugs

National leader Simon Bridges said a government led by him would sign up to the US document.

He said Ms Ardern was distancing New Zealand from more than 120 countries – including Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada – who had all signalled their intention to take part.

“The Prime Minister’s excuse for not signing up, that the government is taking ‘a health approach’ isn’t good enough. The strategy calls for countries to do more to address addiction and provide more treatment as well as working more closely together to clamp down on manufacturing and supply.

“Taken together, that’s how we will deal with the drug problem.

“But by distancing New Zealand from that work the Prime Minister risks making New Zealand an easy target and sending the message that her government is soft on crime and drug dealers.”

That’s a repackaged attack Bridges and Judith Collins have been repeating.

Mr Bridges said National would support people with drug and alcohol problems, but would also hold those who peddle drugs to account.

Which is what happens under the current Government. The methods and balance are flawed, much like under the previous government that Bridges was a minister in.

Ardern needs to step up and her Labour-led needs to do better and more in addressing insidious drug abuse problems and casualties (ruined lives and deaths). Bridges should be working positively with the Government on this, not mudslinging on the sidelines.

Soros versus NZ on war against drugs

George Soros promotes drug policy reform and harm reduction causes…

Billionaire business magnate and philanthropist George Soros—who has long bankrolled drug policy reform and harm reduction causes—has published an op-ed in today’s Financial Times. It’s in support of a new report from the London School of Economics, which is signed by five winners of the Nobel Prize for economics and calls for an end the international War on Drugs.

Soros describes the report as “the most thorough account of the war on drugs” to date. Authored by some of the world’s top economists, it outlines the far-reaching damages wrought by international counter-narcotics efforts, and recommends that governments give top priority to evidence-based drug policies, moving away from prohibition and towards harm reduction. With this message, Soros writes: “I heartily concur.”

“For more than four decades, governments around the world have pumped huge sums of money into ineffective and repressive anti-drug efforts,” he continues. “These have come at the expense of programs that actually work such as needle exchanges and substitution therapy. This is not just a waste of money, it is counterproductive.” Soros is the founder of Open Society Foundations, which has done extensive work in promoting harm reduction programs.

But Soros believes “change is still possible” and hopes the new LSE report could herald a new direction in global drug policy. He writes: “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix a broken global framework for coping with the drug crisis. The costs of doing nothing are too great to bear.”

Source: http://www.substance.com/george-soros-weighs-in-against-the-war-on-drugs/
Hat Tip @NZDrug NZ Drug Foundation

…while New Zealand’s Parliament vote last night to effectively ban synthetic drugs and continue a futile war against drugs.

Warning as legal highs become illegal

The Government is warning of heavy penalties for selling, making or possessing synthetic drugs after the deadline of midnight tonight, when all remaining products will be stripped from shelves.

Parliament yesterday began debating an emergency law change under urgency, which will ban all remaining party pills and synthetic cannabis until a rigorous testing regime is in place.

It will come into effect tomorrow at 12.01am.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said that at this point, all interim approvals for psychoactive drugs would be revoked, remaining products would be recalled and retail licences would be cancelled.

“It will also become illegal to possess these products, so anyone thinking of stocking up … should bear that in mind.”

The penalty for possessing a small amount of a psychoactive substance is a $500 fine.

New Zealand seems to be changing in the wrong direction, repeating the failures of the past.

George Soros in the Financial Times: