AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND—On Thursday night, New Zealand MPs voted 119 to 1 in favor of the Psychoactive Substances Bill, and Monday it became law, making Australia’s closest trading partner the first country in the world to enact recreational drug laws based on evidence and harm-reduction rather than on prohibition and source-eradication.
Australian Sex Party president Fiona Patten said the new laws were now distinctly at odds with Australian drug laws and would ensure that drug law reform becomes one of the major issues at the coming federal election.
“All recreational drug laws in Australia relate to dangerous drugs,” she said. “A new class of recreational drugs that proves to be low-risk, following strict scientific and government-sanctioned testing, will not fit within the definition of a dangerous drug anymore. How can someone be sent to jail for supplying or possessing a product that has been found to be less of a risk than alcohol?”
Patten said it would take less than a couple of years for the contrast in Australian and New Zealand approaches to drugs to become apparent in the community, and urged Australian governments to adopt the NZ model before it becomes embarrassing.
“The costs of maintaining prohibition, the number of deaths from illegal drugs and the size of organized crime gangs in the supply chain, will all escalate in Australia but will decline in New Zealand over the next few years,” she said.
The existence of new legal products in NZ will seriously bring into question a number of state and federal bans on psychoactive substances, she said, adding, “None of the products banned by the ACCC recently were tested to see if they were harmful. The anecdotal evidence from many of our members was that hundreds of thousands of people who bought these products did so quite safely and often for the therapeutic effect they afforded. These claims were ignored by the TGA and by politicians.”
Patten predicted that the new laws in New Zealand would also be responsible for the first real decline in alcohol consumption rates and save the community millions of dollars in lost productivity.
The change of direction in recreational drug laws was initiated by a social tonics company in NZ called Stargate International and helped to fruition by the Star Trust—a non-profit NGO that advocates for drug policy reform and funds research initiatives that utilize psychoactive substances to cure ailments, treat addiction and enhance human performance. Stargate and the Star Trust are both affiliated with the Eros Association in Australia.