Thursday, October 11, 2007


Below is the draft of my submission on the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill, which I'll be posting away later this afternoon. It is based on previous posts here, here, and here. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know by email.

  1. I oppose the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill for the following reasons:
  2. The bill is inconsistent with other drug laws, and with an evidence-based assessment of the risks posed by BZP. The basis for the bill is a report from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs which found that BZP created a potential for serious harm in some individuals, with some risk of toxic seizures. However, that same report also found that there was “no evidence to date of any deaths in New Zealand or internationally caused solely by BZP consumption”.
  3. By contrast, alcohol kills over 1,000 people every year, and tobacco over 5,000.
  4. This is not a question of differential usage. According to the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, 15% of New Zealanders between the ages of 13 and 45 had used party pills in the last twelve months – approximately 250,000 people. If BZP had anything like the potential to cause death as alcohol, we would be seeing dozens of attributable deaths a year. Instead, according to the government’s best assessment of the empirical evidence, we are seeing none.
  5. I favour a consistent drug policy. While our society regrets the death toll from alcohol and tobacco, we also accept it. I suggest that if we are happy as a society for people to drink and smoke at such a tremendous cost in human life, we should be happy for them to take BZP at a much lower cost in human life.
  6. Rather than banning BZP, I would prefer that the government adopted a similar strategy to those used for alcohol and tobacco: age-limits, education on safe use, and harm-minimisation.
  7. As pointed out [PDF] by the Attorney-General, schedule 2 of the bill violates the presumption of innocence affirmed in s25 (c) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 by creating a presumption that possession above a certain level is for the purpose of supply, and thus a reverse-onus of proof. If the bill proceeds, this must be addressed, either by removing schedule 2 in its entirety (and thereby leaving the question up to a jury), or by increasing the limits so as to make such a presumption almost certain rather than merely reasonable. I have no suggestion as to the exact level, but I am sure the committee will be able to obtain suitable expert advice.
  8. I do not wish to make an oral submission to the Select Committee.