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Ed Sheeran

Māori more likely to face prison after drug conviction

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The Drug Foundation’s latest state of the nation has found more than half of those being imprisoned for low level drug offences are Māori.

The report says as many as 50 people have died over the past 18 months from synthetic cannabinoid substances.

“These deaths are an indictment and a reminder that our current approach is not working,” says foundation policy manager Kali Mercier.

She says while the Government is making moves to tackle the problem including changing the way police will deal with people in possession of drugs and funding organisations dealing with the crisis, there is no room to be complacent about how our current drug law is affecting people.

Of 62,173 convictions for drug offences in the decade to 2017, 61 percent of these were for low-level drug charges such as personal possession and use, or possession of a drug utensil.

Convictions for low-level drug offences have been increasing over the last five years.

Nearly half of those convicted are young people under 30, 80 percent are male, and 41 percent are Māori.

“A drug conviction affects relationships, employment and travel opportunities. That’s a life sentence for some, and it’s clear that the burden falls to some groups more than others,” Ms Mercier said.

The report says low-level methamphetamine convictions have risen as cannabis convictions have tapered off, pushing overall rates up.

Demand for addiction treatment continues to grow, with 5000 more people accessing treatment in 2017 than five years earlier, despite a minimal increase in funding for those services.

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