Frequently asked questions about illicit drugs in New Zealand
- What are the most widely available drugs in New Zealand?
- How are drugs supplied to New Zealand?
- What are the penalties for hardcore and soft-core drugs?
- How does the law define use, possession, cultivation and trafficking?
- If I report a young person smoking will they get locked up?
- What are the slang terms for drugs?
- Do police enforce drug-driving?
- Where can I find accurate information about drugs?
- I found drugs in my child's room, how do I work out what it is?
- What does a drug laboratory look like?
- I am a school teacher, what should I do if a pupil is using drugs?
- Where can I get treatment/counselling?
- What should I do if the house I am moving into was a drug lab?
1. What are the most widely available illicit drugs within New Zealand?
Cannabis, Methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and GHB (often called a 'date rape drug') are the most prevalent drugs in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Drug Foundation has specific information about these drugs including details on the short and long term effects, penalties, dependence, addiction and overdose risk.
2. How are illicit drugs supplied to New Zealand?
Illicit drugs can be either manufactured in New Zealand or imported. The manufacture of drugs in clandestine laboratories (clan labs) such as methamphetamine has become a significant problem in recent years. There are risks in the manufacturing process due to poisonous, explosive, corrosive, toxic and extremely flammable chemicals used. The fumes and chemicals pose a significant safety issue for Police, ESR and other emergency personnel involved in the investigation and clean-up process.
See also: How to recognise a methamphetamine lab
3. What are the penalties for drugs offences?
Supply or Manufacture
Allowing your premises or motor vehicle to be used in the commission of an offence against this Act
Class A: Methamphetamine, Magic Mushrooms, Cocaine, Heroin, LSD (Acid)
6 months jail
On indictment: 10 years jail. Summarily: 2 years and/or 1,000 fine
Class B: Cannabis Oil, Hashish, Morphine, Opium, Ecstasy and many Amphetamine types substances
3 months jail and/or $500 fine
14 years imprisonment
On indictment: 7 years jail. Summarily: One year and/or $1,000 fine
Class C: Cannabis Seed, Cannabis Plant, Codeine
3 months jail and/or $500 fine
On indictment: 8 years imprisonment Or Summarily: 1 year jail and/or $1,000 fine
On indictment: 3 years jail OR Summarily: 6 months jail and/or $500 fine
|Class A: Methamphetamine, Magic Mushrooms, Cocaine, Heroin, LSD (Acid)||Class B: Cannabis Oil, Hashish, Morphine, Opium, Ecstasy and many Amphetamine types substances.||Class C: Cannabis Seed, Cannabis Plant, Codeine|
|Possession||6 months jail||3 months jail and/or $500 fine||3 months jail and/or $500 fine|
|Supply or Manufacture||Life imprisonment||14 years imprisonment||On indictment: 8 years imprisonment Or Summarily: 1 year jail and/or $1,000 fine.|
|Allowing your premises or motor vehicle ro be used in the commission of an offence against this Act||On indictment: 10 years jail. Summarily: 2 years and/or 1,000 fine||On indictment: 7 years jail. Summarily: One year and/or $1,000 fine||On indictment: 3 years jail OR Summarily: 6 months jail and/or $500 fine|
Possession of instruments (found with a pipe, bong, needles, syringes, spotting knife): 1 year and/or $500 fine.
Cultivation of Cannabis (includes to sow or plant); On indictment: 7 years imprisonment OR Summarily: 2 years jail and/or $2,000 fine (depending on the amount).
For a more detailed version of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 see the New Zealand Legislation website.
4. How does the NZ law define use, possession, cultivation and trafficking?
- includes smoking, inhaling fumes, injecting, ingesting or otherwise introducing a drug of dependence into a person's body (including another person's body).
- means having control of custody of a drug. Knowledge of such possession must be proven in court. Possession applies to both drugs found on a person or on their property, if it is proven that the drugs belong to that person.
- is the act of sowing, planting, growing, tending, nurturing or harvesting a narcotic plant. Any of these activities constitute the offence of cultivation. If a person cultivates a "deal-able quantity" or intends to sell even a small quantity, it is likely that charges for possession for supply may be laid.
- is a very serious offence. Trafficking includes the preparation of a drug of dependence for trafficking (distribution); manufacturing an illegal drug; or selling, exchanging or agreeing to sell, offering for sale, having possession for sale an illegal drug. If this is done in commercial quantities the penalties are very severe. Bail maybe refused unless there are exceptional circumstances.
5. If I report a young person smoking or in possession of cannabis will they get locked up?
No. If they are under 17 years of age they could be arrested but if it is a first offence and if the amount of cannabis in their possession does not constitute enough for supply they will be dealt with by Police's Youth Aid section using a number of options such as -
- a warning
- alternative action (diversion)
- family group conference techniques
- or youth court (in serious cases).
If they are 17 or older it is likely that they will get diversion (especially if it is their first offence). This means that they will avoid the court process and the likelihood of a conviction, often in return for a donation and/or an approved counseling course.
See also: FAQ Youth Court - Ministry of Justice (Answers questions such as How old is a young person, How old is a child? What is the Youth Court?)
6. What are some of the slang terms used for the most common illicit drugs?
- E, Pills, Eccy, X, XTC, The love drug, Lollies, Bikkies
- Grass, Pot, Weed, Mull, Chronic, Dak, Hash, Smoke, Buds, Skunk, Cabbage
- Acid, Trips, Paper, Microdots, Angry paper, Sugar cubes, Blotters, Gelatine squares, L, Sheets, Tabs
- Speed, Whiz, Crystal meth, Ice, Shabu, Pure, Base, Rock, Crank, Crack. The nickname 'P" is unique to New Zealand.
- Grievous Bodily Harm, Fantasy, Liquid ecstasy, GBH, Liquid E, G-riffic, Goop, Liquid G, Sodium oxybate. Date rape drug, Blue nitro
To find more slang terms visit the New Zealand Drug Foundation website.
7. Does the NZ Police enforce drug-driving?
Yes - under the Land Transport Amendment Act 2009 which came into force in November 2009, it is illegal to drive while impaired by drugs in New Zealand.
If Police have good cause to suspect a person is a drugged driver, they have the power to require the driver to undergo a compulsory impairment test. If this is unsatisfactory, the driver will be required to provide a blood sample. The penalties for drugged driving are similar to the penalties for drink driving.
8. Where can I find accurate information about illicit drugs?
The New Zealand Drug Foundation is a research and advocacy organisation that provides comprehensive information about illegal drugs in New Zealand. Their web site provides information on about the short and long term effects of drugs, penalties and dependence, addiction and overdose risk.
9. I found what looks like drugs in my child's room, how do I work out what it is?
You could show it to your doctor or take it to the drug clinic of your local hospital to be identified. If you are concerned your youngster is using illegal drugs you can also seek help from a Police Education Officer, a Police Youth Aid Officer or a school counsellor.
10. How do I recognise a drug laboratory?
If you have concerns about activity in your neighbourhood that you think might involve the manufacture or use of methamphetamine, here are some signs to look out for:
- Strange smells
- Fumes/vapour escaping from windows or ventilators
- Unusual activity and at unusual times
- Premises being used for purposes other than normal e.g. garage not housing vehicles,
- Windows covered/sealed day and night
- Person acting as if un