Listen to Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB, 4pm to 7pm. Today he looks at decriminalising some drugs and the effect on society.

The Government is looking to go softer on drugs.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the Government is considering taking a more tolerant approach to minor drug offences - the argument being that a punitive approach to drug offending has done more harm than good. Dunne wants drugs to be viewed as more of a health issue.

The Drug Foundation is on the same page as Dunne, believing that we have a punitive approach, and it does look like the Foundation wants to relax the drug laws.

Dunne talks about minor drug offences, and says he's open to reviewing the evidence around the decriminalisation of cannabis.


I very much doubt the Minister wants an open slather on dope. The public don't want it, and he wouldn't have the numbers to get this through in Parliament.

But maybe smoking dope could become a minor drug offence and the cops will turn a blind eye - instead sending the offender to rehab.

I note the pro-cannabis Green Party want to ditch what they call "outdated drug laws". I think they're out of luck on this one.

Decriminalisation is de-facto legalisation - that's what it is. If you can get away with it, its legal. If its legal, it's cheaper, and it stands to reason more drugs will be consumed, more young people will experiment. It follows that more consumption means more addicts, and more crime.

The result is the central problem with legalising drugs, any drugs. It will increase consumption and therefore compound the health risks. Such a law can't be anything but detrimental to health.

If it's all about "health issues" then decriminalising any drug is a non-starter.

It's preposterous to suggest that a law that would increase drug use would not exacerbate the problems that drugs have on society.

Proponents of legalising drugs argue that it's better to focus on treatment, rehabilitation and education. So are they suggesting to make it easier to get the drugs and at the same time deal with the carnage the policy will create? It's doublespeak.

As for the tired old argument of cannabis and other drugs being no worse than alcohol, American research suggests that 85 per cent of people who consume alcohol rarely become intoxicated. But with drugs, intoxication is the entire point.

Softer drug laws will exacerbate the deleterious effects that drugs already have on society. That is why Peter Dunne will not go there.

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