The Real Deal Cannabis Reform

Currently the law doesn’t treat all drugs consistently. Some drugs like alcohol cause more harm than cannabis does, yet they are legal and lightly regulated. TOP’s approach to drug reform is about reducing the total harm caused by drugs in New Zealand.


Our current drugs laws are outdated, and not only fail to protect people from harm but actually add to it.

TOP is proposing a fundamental drug reform based on regulating all drugs to reduce harm.


  • Almost half the population of New Zealand have reported consuming cannabis at some time in their life.
  • The evidence shows that criminalisation of cannabis has had no significant statistical impact on reducing use, nor is there any evidence that decriminalisation increases use.
  • Current enforcement costs are approximately over $180 million per year.
  • Legalisation does not necessarily mean liberal availability and promotion as is the case with alcohol. It is possible to put in place stricter regulations where we can reduce harm while still allowing certain freedom of use.
  • Our focus needs to shift from dealing with cannabis as a criminal justice issue to seeing it as a health issue.

TOPs position is the legalise, regulate and tax cannabis.

Wider Drug Reform

TOP is prepared to back wider drug reform, where the evidence suggests there are gains.

Our principles are:

  1. We should regulate all drugs according to actual harm.
  2. Drug rehab is a very cost-effective investment for the government. Anyone who wants help should be supported, and we think this work should take place in the community.
  3. We should expand the implementation of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts (that have so far only been trialled in Auckland and Waitakere) that focus on addressing the underlying addiction issues of offenders. We need to increase funding for more community rehabilitation providers, to increase the number of offenders who can be sentenced to treatment, not prison.
  4. New Zealand should be closely watching international clinical trials and contributing to the evidence base on the use of currently “illicit drugs” - e.g. psychedelics in psychotherapy. We should also be prepared to adopt those that are proven to work in a therapeutic framework. Early trials are showing promising signs in this area.
  5. Drug testing should be based on impairment, not whether a substance can be detected in a person’s body.

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Page last updated on 3-Sep 2020