Kākahungia te tangata ki te aroha, kaua ki te whakawhiu
Our people need a cloak of support and care, not punishment and stigma
More than for any other group, drug law reform is a big issue for tangata whenua. Most Māori have seen the human cost of our bad drug law first-hand and it’s a sad truth that the people most harmed by prohibition are Māori, young and male.
A cannabis conviction is extremely damaging. It can set a young person back for life – and for what? Not only is a criminal justice approach actively harmful but prohibition doesn’t address any of the health concerns that whānau raise with us about rangatahi using cannabis. In fact, it has made health outcomes worse by creating stigma and making it harder for those who need it to access treatment.
This needs to change. Drug law reform should be about true and enduring justice for the people who are the survivors of the war on drugs. In Aotearoa that means ensuring that Māori voices, and solutions, are at the forefront of conversations about drug law reform. That's going to be especially important as we head towards the cannabis referendum at the 2020 election.
This statement draws on the expertise of more than 50 Māori leaders, in a call to action to ensure that Māori outcomes are improved if cannabis is legalised after the 2020 referendum.
Drug law reform should be about true and enduring justice for the people who are the survivors of the war on drugs. In Aotearoa that means ensuring that Māori voices, and solutions, are at the forefront of conversations about drug law reform. That's going to be especially important as we head towards the cannabis referendum at the 2020 election.
Whānau, hapū and iwi Māori should be central in designing the regulatory model for legal cannabis. It’s important we advocate for a tightly regulated market and much greater resources for the Māori health sector, as well as investigating ways to ensure that there is economic justice for Māori communities.
In Taking Control of Cannabis, we outline 3 Principles that should guide the Government’s work to uphold and promote Māori rights and interests when it comes to regulating cannabis:
Māori are unfairly carrying the burden of drug harm in Aotearoa, being more likely to suffer harm from drug use but less likely to be able to access health treatment.
Cannabis use amongst Māori has increased in the past seven years. In 2018/19, 32 percent of Māori used cannabis in the past year, compared to 21 percent 2011/12. Among cannabis users, Māori are nearly twice as likely to report legal problems from their use.
Māori and Pacific people are more likely to want help for their alcohol and drug use but not receive it. To eliminate these inequities, kaupapa Māori services, iwi-based services and whānau support need to be properly funded.
Statistics can be abstract, but behind each number lies a person and their whānau. Māori are more likely to be convicted than any other group. Despite making up 16.5 percent of our population, in 2018 Māori made up 43 percent of those who received drug convictions. In this same year, Māori made up 44 percent of those charged for low-level drug offences, like possession or use, and around half of those imprisoned for those same offences were Māori.
Legal regulation of cannabis would reduce Māori convictions by as many as 1,200 a year. Fewer whānau encountering the criminal justice system will mean fewer trapped in the endless cycle of reconviction.
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