It's time to talk about drug law, and the harms it causes to Māori ensnared in the justice system because of minor drug offences. We're hosting a hui in Te Taitokerau to lay all the issues on the table and move beyond knee jerk responses.
The way we currently deal with drugs doesn’t work for Māori. Our criminal justice approach to minor offences can causes more harm to the Māori caught up in it than drug use itself. This happens through impacts like hampering access to treatment, damaging employment opportunities and disrupting families.
The statistics show Māori are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and convicted for minor drug offences than other New Zealanders, and less likely to benefit from Police discretion. There is not enough dedicated treatment for those Māori that realise they’ve got a drug problem, espeically in rural areas.
Many believe that enforcing the prohobition on cannabis and other drugs can succeed. Yet we have tried this approach for more than 40 years and the rates of use have barely changed. Rather than trying to punish our way out of the drug problem it is time to try something new. It’s vital we look at the deeper reasons why drug use is so high and what we can do to address the root causes.
The NZ Drug Foundation is working to address this unfair and unjust situation. We argue it’s essential to re-focus the current punitive drug law towards one based on public health principles. Health-based drug use laws would focus on preventing and treating problematic drug use and its effects and redirect resources away from law enforcement towards health and socially-based approaches.
Looking overseas there are many different approaches to drugs being tried with positive results. Exactly what we do in New Zealand is something we need as many different people as possible to have a say on. Together we can:
Raise awareness of the harms from current drug law to Māori, the need to try something new and grow commitment to change things
Gain recognition of harms from current drug law to Māori by Government, politicians, other influential leaders, and the wider public and agree on a shared way forward.
This is the first of solution focused discussion the Drug Foundation is hosting around Aotearoa in coming months. The hui is being oragnised in collaboration with Te Hau Ora O Ngāpuhi. Funding for the Drug Foundation Tautāwhihia. Kaua e whiu. project is gratefully received from the JR McKenzie Foundation.
Discuss the range of issues with our current drug laws and the impact this is having on Māori.
Outline solutions to reduce the harm from drugs from a public health, evidenced informed perspective.
We'll put facts and a guiding framework on the table and there will be two panels.
Kaikohe Memorial Hall
Lunch will be provided. For catering purposes please RSVP.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
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95% of respondents reported positive effects, in a study that looked at both prescription and black market cannabis use.