RNZ story. From Nine to Noon, 1 December 2016, story on the RNZ Site with Audio
[ War on Drugs Failure ]
‘We are just recycling vulnerable people’
The war on drugs has been a “failure”, international experts say. Is it time for New Zealand to move away from strict policies that simply aren’t working?
“We need to [get] away from the criminalisation of drugs and to treat addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue,” he told Nine to Noon.
“I have seen hundreds of people being imprisoned over the years who are addicted to substances. They serve their sentences at great cost to society. They come out [of jail], they are still addicted. They go out, they commit crime again, they go back into prison.
“We are just recycling vulnerable people and we would be better off spending the money treating the underlying causes of their addiction rather than the symptoms.”
He says the culture in the UK is heading towards decriminalisation and legalisation but the biggest hurdle is politicians who put their own electoral success ahead of the public interest.
“They are very short sighted … they look to the next election and they don’t want to touch anything which is controversial. And obviously the legalisation and decriminalisation of drugs is controversial.”
Matt Noffs is the author of Breaking the Ice, about drug-policy reform in Australia. He is an advocate of supervised fix rooms and is currently in talks with the New South Wales government to create the country’s first drug triage rooms, which would divert drug users away from hospital emergency departments.
He says the war against drugs has been a “failure and a crime against humanity”.
“Drugs absolutely harm but … one way of looking at is, does criminalising drugs prevent people from using drugs? Well clearly not.”
The overwhelming scientific evidence from around the world is that having safe rooms leads to a reduction in crime and an increase in safety for users and the public, Noffs says.
“It is just too much to deny. And just because it is unpalatable politically, that shouldn’t stop us.”