The Misuse of Drugs Amendment bill passed its third reading but changes to the bill championed by New Zealand First ensures police still have the ability to prosecute if it can be proven to be more beneficial “to the public interest” than a therapeutic approach.
New Zealand First law and order spokesman Darroch Ball said the change would align the bill more closely with current police practice.
"This will mean that prosecution remains available to police if the offence is serious enough, ensuring police can continue to prevent harm and keep New Zealanders safe."
The Police Association, the Drug Foundation, the Law Society and the Green Party have all called the original bill effective decriminalisation for drug use because it meant police should only prosecute drug users if that was a better outcome than a therapeutic approach.
But the change to the bill means that the test for prosecuting drug users will be whether a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial "to the public interest" rather than for the individual involved.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said that under the original bill police would consider health and addiction issues if they came across a group of people smoking methamphetamine at a kids' playground. Under the changed bill, he said the officers would consider the environment and whether the activity was harming the community.
Despite that change, Mr. Cahill still believes that the new law will ensure a significant drop to the number of prosecutions for drug use. This move by NZ First ensures a balance between reducing prosecutions for petty drug use while still empowering police to prevent harm in the community.