New Zealand is similar to many other countries in the world in that the recreational drug use of illegal drugs is quite prevalent. Whatever your views on the subject, you should be aware of the dangers and legal consequences.
In addition to the penalties noted below, as a tourist you run additional risks in using illegal drugs. You may be deported and also banned from returning to New Zealand.
After alcohol and cigarettes, cannabis is the most widely used recreational drug in New Zealand, and the most widely used illegal drug. And yes, it is illegal to have it in your possession - in any amount. Penalties can be a fine of up to $500 or 3 months in jail. If classed as a dealer (possessing more than 100 joints or 28 grams), the penalties can be much more severe.
New Zealand's temperate climate and remote forested regions make the cultivation of cannabis a widespread activity. As a result, New Zealand rates as having the ninth largest cannabis usage in the world per capita; it is estimated that nearly 15% of the adult population use it regularly.
You may encounter cannabis use frequently in private social situations.
This drug has become a significant social problem in New Zealand, due to its destructive and highly addictive nature. It is known on the street by such names as "speed", "crystal meth" and "ice". However in New Zealand it is most commonly called "P". Due to the expensive nature of the drug, production and distribution is big business in this country. Although some of the drug comes from overseas, much of it is manufactured locally in what are called "P labs." The police have become increasingly successful at discovering and shutting down these operations, which are usually quite small scale and operated from private homes.
Penalties for use or manufacture of P are severe, being up to six months jail and life imprisonment respectively.
Cocaine, Heroin and LSD
Due to the dominance of "P" these drugs are not as widely prevalent as in other western countries. However, they are still to be found and usage carries heavy penalties.
Party drugs such as BZP and GHB ('fantasy') were made illegal in New Zealand in 2008. There are a number of other party pills that are still legal in this country which are sold through specialist shops and online.
Drugs and Driving
It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle in New Zealand when under the influence of drugs. If stopped by the police, you can be subject to a drugs test. The penalties are similar to those for drink driving (under the influence of alcohol).
For the tourist, there is only one word of advice I can give you about using drugs in New Zealand: don't. The risks are not worth ruining your holiday (and your chances of ever coming back) for.
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