Helen Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999-2008 and then took up a post as United Nations Development Programme Administrator. She now heads the Global Commission on Drug Policy along with former President of Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss.
They have been visiting New Zealand, together with the head of the Commission’s Geneva-based Secretariat, Khalid Tinasti. Their mission was to promote drug law reform, based on the Commission’s position of support for decriminalisation and the effective regulation of drugs.
Kia Ora, thank you for the opportunity to find out more about your kaupapa [policy positions] for drug law reform in New Zealand.
What has motivated you to engage in drug law reform since departing your last post as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme?
I’ve always seen drugs as something that should not be dealt with in the criminal justice system.
Prohibition and criminalisation is not the way to deal with drugs.
I’ve been recruited by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which knew of my work in support of this kind of approach at UNDP to come on board and help advocate for evidence-informed drug policy.
And we have so many examples from around the world now of countries which are going down the legalisation and regulation path, which New Zealand could learn from.
It’s really shameful that we are now so far behind.
Whether it’s on safe consumption spaces, whether it’s on drug testing, whether it’s on cannabis law reform, whether it’s on therapeutic cannabis, we are behind.
Now, Kiwis we need pragmatic solutions to get on the front foot and get our drag law in order.
What solutions would you implement?
Well, I would legalise cannabis .. absolutely.
I would decriminalise the use and possession of all drugs and put in place legal regulation around them, depending on the nature of the drug, you have a different kind of regulation.
My colleague from Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss, who has been visiting New Zealand, a former President of Switzerland, she brought in safe consumption spaces, prescriptions for heroin… in other words, get it off the streets, out of the criminal market, into a properly regulated environment.
So we need regulation, not prohibition?
States around the world take the responsibility to regulate for all sorts of things that are potentially harmful, we regulate road safety, we regulate tobacco, we regulate alcohol, we regulate guns, we regulate all sorts of things.
With drugs we’ve had traditionally another approach, when we say, let’s prohibit .. that doesn’t work.
The war on drugs has failed.
We need to look at states taking the responsibilities to regulate.
Thank you for sharing your insights with us.
Ka mihi matou ki a Helen mo tana kaupapa.