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Drug offences


How illegal drugs are classified in New Zealand

Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, ss 2, 3A, Schedules 1–3

Illegal drugs are classified in the following way:

  • Class A – These are the “hard” drugs, for example: heroin, LSD (lysergide, or “acid”), cocaine, methamphetamine (“P”), mescaline, phencyclidine (“PCP, “angel dust”), and MDA (similar to ecstasy). These are the drugs classified as “Very high risk of harm”.
  • Class B – These include amphetamines (speed), MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis resin (hash), cannabis oil (hash oil), morphine, opium, pseudoephedrine and ephedrine (which can both be used to make P), methadone, GHB (fantasy), and oxycodone (“oxycotton”). These are the drugs classified as “High risk of harm”.
  • Class C – These include cannabis (marijuana, including the plant, whether fresh or dried, and its seeds), barbiturates (“downers”) like secobarbital (brand name “Seconal”) and pentobarbital (“Nembutal”), codeine, coca leaf, and BZP (the psychoactive ingredient in most “party pills”). These are the drugs classified as “Moderate risk of harm”.

The drug legislation (the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975) calls illegal drugs “controlled drugs”.

Changes in the drug classifications

How drugs are classified – and therefore whether they’re illegal and how heavy the penalties are – can change over time. Before 2003, for example, “P” (methamphetamine) used to be only a Class B drug, it is now Class A.

As another example, drugs from the NBOMe (or “NBomb”) series, a hallucinogenic LSD-type “party drug”, were sold in New Zealand in 2012, apparently legally. For example, the variant 25C-NBOMe was marketed as “DIME”, and also known as Pandora and Cimbi 82. But in July 2013 these NBOMe drugs became illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act, which meant you could be fined up to $500 for possessing or using them (see later in this section, “Synthetic cannabis, party pills, herbal highs: ‘Psychoactive substances’”). Then in December 2016, the Government brought the NBomb drugs under the tougher Misuse of Drugs Act system, classifying the three NBOMe variants (25B, 25C and 25I) as Class B in the “High risk” band. This means that for possession or use of these drugs you can now be fined up to $500 or jailed for up to three months, and selling or otherwise dealing in these drugs has a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Note: To get up-to-date information about drug classifications you can look up the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 at Go to the Schedules at the end of the Act – Schedule 1 for Class A drugs, Schedule 2 for Class B, and Schedule 3 for Class C.

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