Health Not Handcuffs

Health Not Handcuffs was launched in April 2019 by a group of health and social justice organisations united by a desire to see compassionate approaches to drug and alcohol use, informed by the evidence.

We’re working to create a movement for change, supported by individuals and organisations from all around these wonderful islands we call home. If you support the kaupapa, you can be part of it. Please join us and help us advocate for a drug policy with heart.

We all see the harm that drug and alcohol use can cause, and want to make sure that those who need it can access support. We also see the harm that treating drug use as a criminal issue causes, in particular to young people and Māori communities. We need to stop the convictions and move to treating drug use as a health and social issue.

We’re calling for three key changes

1. Choose health over handcuffs

This means treating drug use as a health issue, not a law enforcement issue.

Research and experience from around the world shows that criminal penalties have surprisingly little impact on whether people take drugs. Switching to a health approach will save money in the justice and prison system. More importantly, it will allow those who are struggling with their drug use to get the help they need.

We’ve already seen some improvement in this area. Last year the government changed the law to reduce the numbers of people arrested for using illicit drugs.

2. Double the addictions budget.

We currently spend at least three times as much enforcing our drug laws as we do on drug-related health stuff. Does that sound right to you? It doesn't to us!

We’d like to see all those who need support with their drug use able to access a full range of services, at the time that they need them. Anyone who has tried to find treatment for themselves or a loved one will agree that's not happening in NZ right now. It's not just about residential treatment - it's about care in the community, housing and employment. That's how we'll make a real difference to those who suffer the most from drug use.

3. Regulate cannabis to reduce the harms it can cause

Alongside treating all drug use as a health and social issue, we need to look at cannabis. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in New Zealand. One in seven of us use it despite the fact it’s illegal, and around 4000 of us receive criminal charges for cannabis offences every year.

By legalising cannabis we will be able to minimise the health and social problems that it can cause. There will be controls on packaging, potency, portion size and advertising, and strict age limits for who can purchase it. Taxes will go towards health and education.

In 2020 we are putting our energy towards making sure all New Zealanders have the information they need when they vote at the referendum in September. We want our supporters to be in a great position to argue the case with others, too.

We are still working on our other focus areas – you just might not hear so much about that in 2020!

The Health Not Handcuffs founding organisations are

Hāpai te Hauora; JustSpeak; NZ Drug Foundation; NZ Needle Exchange Programme; Te Rau Ora

Our supporting organisations are: