Greens MP Chlöe Swarbrick has accused National Party leader Simon Bridges of "arrogance and cowardice" over his criticism of her party’s continued calls for drug reform.
Yesterday Mr Bridges told 1 NEWS: "The Greens have always been soft on crime, they have always seen this as solely therapeutic and health based".
Appearing on TVNZ1’s Breakfast today, Ms Swarbrick took aim at Mr Bridges.
"I heard Simon Bridges on the news last night talking about how the Greens were soft on crime and this was all about us trying to take this wishy-washy therapeutic approach," she said.
"I would just say to Simon, that I think it’s the height of arrogance and cowardice for politicians to continue beating a blunt and broken instrument when people are literally dying."
Ms Swarbrick said increasing the severity of punishments for drug use had no effect on the availability or the affordability of drugs.
"We’re at a crossroads, we can continue down the path of failed drug policy, which looks like the war on drugs, we know that no country in the world has been able to decrease the drug harm associated to drug use abuse and addiction by way of ratcheting up penalties."
"In fact, it doesn’t decrease supply in terms of access or affordability on the streets.”
Ms Swarbrick said the Greens were not necessarily advocating for legalisation.
"I don’t think we necessarily have to go down the track of the market route," she said.
"What we're advocating for, as we've been doing for a very long time now as the Greens, is for a health-based approach."
The Greens MP understood people who just wanted the Government to act but said that reform needed to work.
"We’ve never ban able to just ban drugs," she said.
"We currently have a state of play whereby illegal drugs are unregulated drugs, we have unknown people selling unknown chemicals to unknown people consuming in unknown places, all of this stuff is happening in the shadows and that is what looks like harm."
"Continuing down this line of the war on drugs which is ratcheting up penalties increases our prison population, cool if you’re looking to do that, but it does not decrease people’s access nor affordability of these products."
"Nobody is going to put their hand up and ask for help if that looks like going away in handcuffs."
Ms Swarbrick cited successful local examples like the collaboration between Northland DHB and police targeting users to decrease the demand for methamphetamine to show that this method does work.