Closeup of a line of cocaine being snorted off a mirror.
Opinion

Big, bad, deadly drugs like fentanyl have got to be stopped

A deadly drug we thought we didn’t have here in New Zealand and given our national drug problem, a drug we really can’t afford to let slip in.

New Zealand has made bounds when it comes to talking about drugs. 

When I first entered parliament in 2012 even the Greens would bristle and refuse to answer questions about whether they thought cannabis should be decriminalised.

Now we’re grown up enough to have a whole referendum on legalising the stuff.

In 2012 some politicians still thought needle exchanges were dens of sin promoting illegal drug use. 

Now we have legislation protecting legal drug testing of illicit drugs at festivals and pop-up clinics. 

There’s a recognition that safety trumps paranoia. Facts over rhetoric. Healthcare not a ‘war on drugs’. Addiction requires support, not jail. 

But big, bad, deadly drugs like fentanyl have got to be stopped. 

We need to know what’s out there. 

That’s where drug testing comes in and the aforementioned legislation that was passed last year. 

After the dozen overdoses at the weekend, the Drug Foundation started pop-up clinics in the Wairarapa. 

Those twelve people thought they were taking meth or cocaine.

But we only have three machines - in the entire country - that can do the testing. 

The Drug Foundation needs more, it needs the government to write a cheque for more. To save more lives. This was CEO Sarah Helm on our show yesterday:

Journalists are used to scrapping - respectfully - with politicians, used to pushing them, used to being pushed back and spun so furiously we fall down with dizziness. 

What makes it all worthwhile is when politicians listen. When they actually do something… 

Hats off to the new Justice Minister on the show shortly after Sarah:

Bang! We’ll be checking in with Kiri Allen next Wednesday to see how those chats have progressed. 

Points too to National leader Christopher Luxon. 

National opposed the drug checking legislation last year. Former leader Simon Bridges argued it legitimised illegal drug use and would lead to more people doing drugs. 

Luxon on our show yesterday, however, was a strong proponent of the evidence the drug testing produces - particularly now that we’re staring down fentanyl.

It was a bit confusing because he doesn’t support the testing that begets the evidence but he still wants the evidence. 

To be clear, that's the evidence that comes from the drug testing… 

But he wasn’t an all-out no to funding the machines that provide the evidence, the surveillance data. 

Which we need the machines for… 

Anyway - good listening from both sides on this issue I thought. Hopefully, the listening turns to action. 

And given we’ve come such a long way when talking about drugs. It does feel like now is the right time for a measured, informative conversation about decriminalisation.