In August 2019, the Misuse of Drugs Act (MoDA) was amended to:
- enable temporary classification orders to be issued for emerging and potentially harmful substances
- classify synthetic cannabinoids AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as Class A controlled substances
- affirm the ability of New Zealand Police (Police) to use discretion when considering whether to prosecute people for personal possession and use of drugs. This includes requiring the Police to consider whether, in addition to other relevant matters, health-based alternatives would be more beneficial to the public interest.
The amendments were made in response to a spike in drug-related harm that was observed in 2017. They made clear the Government’s commitment to a health-based approach to preventing drug-related harm by seeking to interrupt supply and consumer cycles, promote awareness of dangers associated with unregulated substances, and reduce exposure to the criminal justice system for possession for personal use, where appropriate.
An interim review of the impacts of these amendments was carried out in 2020, to understand whether the amendment has been successful in supporting a health-based approach to drug-harm reduction and minimising the interaction of people with a drug harm issue with the criminal justice system.
Part one of this report covers amendments to section 7 of the Act, which emphasise health-based approaches for the exercise of Police discretion in prosecution of possession and use of drugs. Part two covers the impact of the classification of AMB-FUBINCA and 5F-ADB. Part three reviews the implementation of the temporary class drug orders.
As interim reports, they draw findings from the limited data available in the two years since the amendments were made. The reports also include recommendations on how gaps could be addressed, and further opportunities to provide a comprehensive picture in a full review of the impact of these amendments, scheduled for 2024.