Home | Browse Topics | Criminal & traffic law | Common crimes | Drug offences

Criminal & traffic law

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: “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 imprisoned for up to three months, and selling or otherwise dealing in these drugs has a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years.

Note: To get up-to-date information about drug classifications you can look up the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, here (or go to: www.legislation.govt.nz and search Misuse of Drugs Act). 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.

Did this answer your question?

Common crimes

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Drug Foundation

The New Zealand Drug Foundation has a large amount of information about different drugs and their effects, and about criminal offences and penalties.

Website: www.drugfoundation.org.nz
Email: admin@drugfoundation.org.nz
24/7 Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NZDrugFoundation


KnowYourStuffNZ provides free information, advice, and drug checking services using a range of testing methods at events around New Zealand.

Website: www.knowyourstuff.nz
Contact form: knowyourstuff.nz/contact
Instagram: www.instagram.com/knowyourstuffnz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KnowYourStuffNZ

The New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme

The Needle Exchange Programme provides and collects needles for safe disposal, advice on harm reduction, and is licensed to provide drug checking services.

Website: www.nznep.org.nz
Email: info@nznep.org.nz
Phone: 03 366 9403
Instagram: www.instagram.com/NZNEP
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NZNEP

The Level

The Level provides free guides for people who use drugs.

Website: www.thelevel.org.nz
Contact form: thelevel.org.nz/contact-us
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thelevelnz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thelevelnz

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

The MPI website has information about recreational fishing rules and customary gathering rights.

Website: www.mpi.govt.nz/travel-and-recreation/fishing
To report poaching, email poacher@mpi.govt.nz or phone 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24)

Want to know the rules on the spot?

The MPI have a free NZ Fishing Rules app that you can download by texting the word “app” to 9889. The app works even when you have no coverage.

You can also send a free text 9989 with the name of the species you are fishing for (e.g. blue cod or pāua) and receive legal size and bag limit via return text.

For more information about this: www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/recreational-fishing/fishing-rules-for-gear-methods-and-species/paua-rules-and-guidelines

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top