Drug Law Reform

DS Danyl Strype Public Seen by 301

Please note: The question of whether the party should adopt a number of non-core policies for the 2014 election needs to discussed in its own thread. Let's use this one to start exploring what a Pirates drug policy might be, if and when we decide to adopt one.

I've yet to meet a Pirate Party member, supporter, or potential voter, who doesn't support radical reform of the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, some Pirates think the party should avoid adopting policies not directly related to the internet, to avoid 'brand dilution'. This has recently been discussed on PPNZ (about half-way down this thread):

As a TL;DR policy summary, I suggest:
“the Pirates support an immediate end to all arrests for non-violent drug offences, whether for possession, retailing, or production. Since this would allow people to run businesses producing or selling drugs which are currently illegal, these businesses would need public oversight and regulation, along the lines of the systems we use to regulate the alcohol and tobacco industries. Drugs should not be advertised or marketed in any way that might encourage people to use them in ways they otherwise would not have”.

Evidence base for our drug policy:

  • Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse
  • David Nutt, Leslie A King, William Saulsbury, Colin Blakemore,
    Published in the Lancet
    An analysis of a thorough survey on the harms (personal and social) of all recreational drugs, both legal and illegal.

  • Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife

  • Madeline H. Meiera et al
    Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
    An analysis of the effects of cannabis use on 1037 people from Dunedin, suggesting a drop in IQ among long-term users. Other researchers, including Ole Røgeberg of the Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research in Oslo have pointed out that many other explanations could account for the correlation they identified (eg there is evidence that stress lowers IQ and the threat of being arrested for having cannabis in a constant stress in user's lives):


Danyl Strype Mon 16 Dec 2013 6:15AM

As a sound-bite summary, I would suggest "the Pirates support an immediate end to all arrests for non-violent drug offences, whether for possession, retailing, or production. Since this would allow people to run businesses producing or selling drugs which are currently illegal, these businesses would need public oversight and regulation, along the lines of the systems we use to regulate the alcohol and tobacco industries".

As for a detailed policy statement and an evidence-base to support it, I would start with a review of the policy work the Greens, Cannabis Party, and Young ACT have done, and create a Pirate fork of it.


Andrew Reitemeyer Mon 16 Dec 2013 7:30PM

I would like to see this as part of a wider commitment to evidence based policy.
As for the research needed to back up such a policy we should look at including the work of Professor Nutt


David Peterson Tue 17 Dec 2013 1:14PM

Do you think PPNZ should also have a position on Global Warming and Abortion? Plus all the other thousands of very very important but controversial issues?

No, of course not because it is waaay outside the core scope of PPNZ, it would dilute us down from our core focus, brand us as something else than what we are at our core thus weakening our core proposition for the voters, promote infighting, drive many people away, and all in all make it much harder to work towards the core goals of PPNZ (which I assume is why we all joined up in the first place!! Not because we want to see reform with GlobalWarming/Abortion/marijuana/whatever).


Danyl Strype Tue 17 Dec 2013 10:52PM

There is evidence that a significant majority of kiwis now support drug law reform:

Note: unlike the Cannabis Party, I think the argument against prohibition needs to be taken to its logical conclusion and applied to all drugs. In the case of users, it's a health issue, not a criminal justice issue; it doesn't make any more sense to arrest someone for using heroin than for smoking cannabis.

In the case of supply, the kind of production and distribution allowed should be based on objective criteria for assessing how dangerous each drug is:

Unless we're going to regulate alcohol more tightly, anything less dangerous than alcohol should be quality-controlled, and available for sale in an R18 licensed premises. For drugs more dangerous than alcohol, I'd support the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition proposal for the government to manufacture the drugs, and give addicts a prescription, so nobody is making money out of their addiction.

I'd also say that no advertising of drugs or drug-based businesses should be allowed. If people choose to take drugs, that's fine, but allowing business to encourage people to take them creates perverse incentives.


Rob Ueberfeldt Fri 10 Jan 2014 1:29AM

I like the idea of PP championing drug law reform. Personally I would go with legalising all drugs for personal use, but keep sanctions (albeit reduced from the current) on dealers. I have no fear of "brand dilution" as such. We have a narrow focus which is in keeping with a small membership, for us to grow our policies will have to be expanded. It's not a case of cart before the horse or vice versa, instead it is something that needs to occur simultaneously IE membership needs to increase as our policies expand.


Andrew Reitemeyer Fri 10 Jan 2014 5:56PM

I agree with that Rob. I am keen to get new members but it is difficult to engage people with a party that is not and will not be in the near future, relevant to their concerns. We need a broad base of support - all ages, genders, professions and political persuasion. If we support true democracy then we should potentially appeal to the vast majority.


Danyl Strype Fri 17 Jan 2014 5:05AM

Rob, so you would basically go with the Portugal model? Have you seen the documentary Breaking the Taboo? Users of some drugs (ie not alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine) still get harassed and arrested in Portugal, they just don't get a conviction. Instead they get sent to a Drug Court which patronizes them about their choice of drug. Not enough of an improvement in my opinion.

Andrew, thanks for your comment, but like David's it seems more relevant to a thread about expanding/ not expanding the PP's policy platform. This thread is about drug law reform.


Rob Ueberfeldt Sun 19 Jan 2014 10:47PM

Probably something closer to the Dutch model. Or any model that doesn't marginalise users further than the Dutch one. As I said legalise all personal drug use. Dealers that carry over the limit need to be weary. Possibly no ideal situation will arise but NZ can improve a lot.


Danyl Strype Wed 5 Feb 2014 1:09AM

I guess there's two questions here. 1) What's the ideal situation, the one which fits with our principles and the facts? 2) What's the biggest step towards that ideal which is politically realistic? To me, the first is a question of Policy, while the second is a question of Strategy.

I think when agreeing on Policy or Positions we should be writing them as if we intend to be the government after the next election and have the power to make them happen. Otherwise we confuse ourselves trying to read the minds of other parties, and find a compromise position, before we've even clarified what we think as the Pirates and why.

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