Press Release: Government must be courageous on drug law reform

November 5, 2020

The provisional results on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control bill referendum show that the government needs to step up and show courageous leadership to implement evidence based drug law reform. 


“Of the people who voted, 46.1% chose ‘yes’ for a common-sense approach to our drug laws that will enable a more equitable, just, and healthy future”, said JustSpeak Director Tania Sawicki Mead.


“Special votes are yet to be counted, and this result of this referendum may yet change.


“But what has become clear in the conversations about the referendum is that most New Zealanders agree our current laws aren’t working. The criminalisation of cannabis pushes people into the justice system with serious and harmful long term consequences for them, their whānau and communities, with enormously harmful impacts on rangatahi Māori in particular.


“Despite the misinformation from opponents of health based drug laws and the absence of courageous political leadership, nearly half of all New Zealanders voted for legalisation. That’s a huge turnaround after decades of narratives that used fear to push the failed idea of a ‘war on drugs’.


“There is clear agreement from all sides of this debate that prohibition is not working. This does not have to be the end of the road for drug law reform - it can be the beginning of something better, and bolder, but only if the government chooses to put evidence into action. 


“We elect politicians to assess evidence, listen to experts and make courageous decisions to do right by the communities that they represent. The government needs to take up this challenge, not just leave this issue to fester for another decade, and build a system that puts the wellbeing of people at its center.


“We are calling on the government to start with an overhaul of the out of date Misuse of Drugs Act and an immediate increase to funding for the drug treatment and education that will ensure people are treated with compassion.”