Parliament's Health Committee has reported on the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill.
The committee recommends that some amendments be passed but has been unable to agree that the bill be passed.
The bill aims to address the harm caused by synthetic (and other) drugs by focusing on those who import, manufacture and supply them, rather than users. It also aims to provide for a health-based or therapeutic response to drug-related harm.
Describing drugs on a temporary drug class order
As introduced, new section 4C (clause 5) would amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to allow the Minister of Health to issue temporary drug class orders. Section 4C (4) specified how a drug could be described on a temporary order, including the option of using a drug’s product name.
The Committee recommends removing this option as since the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 came into force there are no longer legal products marketed under a “product name”.
Clarification of discretion to prosecute
New section 7(5) (clause 6) would amend section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and would affirm the Police’s discretion to prosecute for possession and use of a controlled drug, where it is the public interest.
The committee considers that this section is broader than intended and it would allow the discretion to prosecute to apply in the case of someone who supplied or administered a controlled drug, not simply used or possessed a controlled drug (section 7(1)(a)).
The committee recommends that new section 7(5) is amended to specify that the discretion to prosecute would only apply to subsection (1)(a).