Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mindless and punitive

Back in May, the Law Commission issued their review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The review pushed strongly for a complete change in drug policy, away from the current mindless punitive approach towards evidence-based policy and harm-minimisation. Among the proposed changes was an end to the current law which allows the police to charge and even jail people for the victimless crime of drug possession; instead, the Law Commission recommended a mandatory cautioning scheme, which would have seen drug users warned and directed towards rehabilitation, rather than prosecuted and thrown in jail. To some extent, this reflects current police use of pre-charge warning and diversion; the advantage is that it removes police discretion, which can easily be abused. It also of course would save millions of dollars in police and court time, while avoiding people ending up in the criminal justice system for trivial offences.

Today, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne issued the Government's response: No. Evidence-based policy and punishment proportionate to the crime is apparently for wimps. The government will continue its cultural war on drugs (except alcohol) no matter how wasteful or harmful it is.