Health not Handcuffs launched 3 April 2019

Change to New Zealand’s outdated drug law so we support rather than punish people is within our grasp.

Health not Handcuffs was launched on 3 April 2019 as a vehicle for the many New Zealanders who want to express their support for overhauling our outdated drug law. Seven leading public health and social justice organisations are founding partners in the new campaign.

Tinkering is not enough. Health not Handcuffs is seeking public support for these three goals:

  1. Remove criminal penalties for drug use and possession, and move instead to a health-referral model;
  2. Double New Zealand’s yearly budget for drug-related prevention, education, harm reduction and treatment;
  3. Regulate the legal supply of cannabis, to improve public health.

The founding partner organisations are: ActionStation, Hāpai te Hauora, Just Speak, NZ Drug Foundation, NZ Needle Exchange Programme, Te Rau Ora and Wellington Community Justice Project.

There is strong motivation from within the partner organisations to build a vibrant movement that achieves much needed change.

 “As Māori, in our homes, in our whānau and in our communities, we have seen how criminalising drug use has created harm across generations and compounded, not alleviated, the socioeconomic and mental health factors that underpin harmful drug use. If we shift the emphasis from punitive to compassionate interventions, we can prevent future generations being sentenced to the same fate.,” said Selah Hart, Chief Operating Officer, Hāpai te Hauora.

“Too many people, particularly rangatahi Māori, are being punished as a result of drug addiction or use, rather than being supported through health services. The result is more harm to individuals, whānau and communities and a growing prison population. We believe that treating drugs as a health issue is an essential step towards a fairer and more just society, and we’re excited to be part of this movement for change,” Tania Sanwicki Mead, Director, JustSpeak.

“Given the politics of drug policy, for governments to act they need to feel they have public support; evidence alone won’t drive change. Health not Handcuffs is designed to give the government the social licence to act, to give them the confidence that those actions have widespread public support,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.

To ensure debate is focused on those most affected under current discriminatory law we have adopted the tagline: ‘Kākahungia te tangata ki te aroha, kaua ki te whakawhiu’. This reflects our focus on supporting whānau who need care rather than punishment.

This movement will succeed when a diverse, vibrant group of New Zealanders jump on board and get active. Join us today!



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