The idea that we should stop taking a punitive approach to drug use is not a new one for Māori.
It's easy to see why. The evidence is clear that the negative consequences of drug use fall heavily and disproportionately on tangata whenua. Most Māori have seen the human cost of our drug law first-hand. It could be an uncle in prison, or a nephew wasting their life away on the couch because their criminal record stops them getting a job. Or it could be a favourite cousin unable to get mental health and addiction support.
Drug law reform is a Māori issue
Statistics can be abstract, but behind each number lies a person and their whānau. When it comes to the effects of our drug law, it's clear that Māori are unfairly carrying the burden. It's a triple whammy, because Māori are more likely to suffer harm from drug use, less likely to be able to access health treatment, and more likely to be convicted than other groups:
- 41% of those charged for minor drug offences are Māori. And more than 50 percent of people imprisoned for those same offences are Māori.
- In 2017, 1577 Māori were convicted for low level drug use.
- Māori are around twice as likely to have used cannabis in the last 12 months than other groups, and three times as likely to have used amphetamines.
- Māori adults seek treatment from alcohol and other drug services at more than twice the rate of non-Māori.