Former NZ PM Helen Clark backs decriminalisation of drugs

Former NZ PM Helen Clark says countries should regulate illicit substances like alcohol and tobacco.

Former NZ PM Helen Clark says countries should regulate illicit substances like alcohol and tobacco. Photo: AAP

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is calling for drug use to be decriminalised and for drug users to no longer be incarcerated.

The chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy says countries should instead regulate illicit substances in the same way they approach alcohol and tobacco.

She believes law makers should follow the lead of the ACT, where from October people caught possessing small amount of drugs such as MDMA, heroin and methamphetamine will no longer be imprisoned.

Instead, they will pay $100 fines or be referred to drug diversion programs.

“The evidences is very solid, I believe (in) going down the path that ACT has gone down, which is to decriminalise possession for personal use in general,” Ms Clark told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“Now the case … is also reasonably clear that a drug like cannabis should be subjected to a form of regulation that’s probably similar to that for tobacco.”

The number of drug users around the world grew to 284 million people in 2020, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Ms Clark said people would use drugs regardless of legal restrictions so lawmakers should focus on ensuring they use them safely.

“You’re going to be able to protect people’s health and wellbeing, you’re going to lower the prison population very substantially and wouldn’t that release resources for harm reduction?”

Ms Clark is attending the Harm Reduction International Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre this week, along with former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and other dignitaries.


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