Why is New Zealand doing this?
According to recent data from the Ministry of Health, about 9 percent of New Zealanders have used the illicit drug in the past year, with cannabis being the most popular. Synthetic cannabis is a common problem, With over 40 drug-related deaths reported in 2018. (The country voted against legalizing marijuana in a referendum last year.) Drugs are the third most common reason youngsters drop out of school.
While New Zealand has long struggled with methamphetamine abuse, party drugs are common. In 2019, the New Zealand Police seized more than two million Ecstasy tablets and their counterparts, up 560 per cent from 2018.
It is specifically these party drugs that have occurred as a result of injury or death, sometimes as a result of people misleading or taking contaminated drugs. This year, KnowYourStuff received Approximately 1,000 messages from Festivals that report unusual reactions to the drug are sold as MDMA, including days of paranoia, seizures, severe nausea and insomnia. The drugs are believed to have been contaminated with synthetic cathinone.
Speaking in Parliament last year, Andrew Little, Minister of Health, emphasized that the current New Zealand government viewed drug policy as a matter of health rather than a criminal one.
The prosecution-led approach has not worked, he said: “It is not changing. If we want to change behavior, we have to adopt a different approach.”
But does it work?
The data is spotty, but promising.
A survey by the University of Victoria found that 68 per cent of festivals using survey services changed their behavior, with some reducing the amount while others disposed of their drugs altogether.
A similar study conducted at a ceremony in Canberra, Australia in 2019, found that “all those who had a very dangerous substance discovered the drug in the amnesty bin.”