The Drug Foundation is calling for the decriminalisation of the use and possession of all illicit drugs.
Ross Bell, executive director of the Drug Foundation launched a report on what it would look like if New Zealand moved to a "health-approach" to drugs, rather than a criminal.
"We've proved ourselves ill-equipped to deal with public health emergencies when it comes to drugs. We've seen it most recently with the dreadful deaths from synthetic cannabinoids," he said today.
The foundation says New Zealand's criminal approach to drugs is not working, instead recommending a health-focused approach by recommending a range of reforms.
The proposals include decriminalising the use and possession of all illicit drugs - with supply remaining illegal, legalising cannabis (both use and supply) and increasing treatment and reduction services and education around drugs.
The report was commissioned to Sense Partners by the Drug Foundation, the New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme and the Matua Raki addiction workforce development programme within Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui.
Mr Bell said New Zealand had been struggling with it's drug issues, "trying to get treatment, all of the lack of support in communities, the fact that we have waiting lists, the fact we only provide services to 50,000 New Zealanders a year when we know there’s another 100,000 New Zealanders who want help".
"Wishing drug use away, by banning it, rather than accepting many people use drugs regardless, doesn't work," the report states.
“Worse, exposing people who use drugs to the criminal world and prisons because of drug use, or not providing sufficient help with complex health and social issues, can lead to further compounding problems.”
The report suggests the decriminalisation of all drugs may slightly reduce criminal justice costs, "but not enough to fund current need for addiction services".
However, it found the legalisation of cannabis could "raise significant tax revenue, which can fund expanded addiction services as well as other spending priorities".
"Cannabis legalisation has the benefit of a tax base to increase drug education, harm reduction and treatment," it says, estimating a gain of $86 million a year including revenue from tax and licensing.