Good news! The law banning the importation and sale of harm-reducing cannabis pipes, bongs and vaporisers may be changed.
In a new discussion document, the NZ Ministry of Health has noted that drug issues are “health matters that need to be addressed proportionately, compassionately and innovatively.” It also notes the goal of the National Drug Policy is to “minimise harm from alcohol and other drugs”, and to “promote and protect the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.”
Cannabis consumers want to use bongs so they can reduce harm from smoking and have better control over their health. NORML recommends the use of harm reducing uentils (such as bongs, waterpipes and vaporisers), as most of the harm related to consuming cannabis comes not from cannabis itself but from smoking plant material.
The Law Commission noted in their 2011 report on the Misuse of Drugs Act that the law around utensils is unfair, creates harm, and should be changed. Since then more than ten thousand charges have been laid by NZ Police for possession of drug utensils – around 80% of these were for cannabis.
The Ministry of Health discussion document proposes amending current laws and regulations to reduce the impact of criminality and to control the availability of drug utensils including cannabis bongs, pipes and vaporisers, through one of two options:
Either an “enhanced status quo” involving one of these sub-options:
- Clarify legal definitions of drug utensils in the Notice.
- Develop operating guidance for the enforcement of the Notice (this could be to prioritise or de-prioritise enforcement).
- Reduce criminal penalties for personal possession of drug utensils.
Or “replacing possession prohibition with regulations to restrict and manage supply“. This option would remove all prohibition on utensils and replace it with regulations to inform and reduce harm. The sub-options identified are set out below. All sub-options would require an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Changes may include:
- restricting location of sale
- prohibiting sale to minors
- prohibiting or restricting marketing
- restricting possession in public places
- establishing infringement regulations and/or confiscations to support sub-options
- requiring harm information in relation to utensils use
- creating licensing regulations for retailers and online sellers.
The discussion document notes that the current regime and the legal penalties for pipes and bongs do not meet any of the policy criteria, namely harm prevention (particularly for young people); harm reduction; proportionality; cost-effectiveness; and ease of implementation.
The closing date for submissions is 5 pm on Tuesday, 20 September 2016.
There are two ways you can make a submission:
Email your submission to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are emailing your submission in PDF format, please also send us the Word document.
You can make a written submission by mailing your comments to:
Drug Utensils Discussion Document
Ministry of Health
PO Box 5013