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Ed Sheeran

Maori conviction rate exposes drug law flaws

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The Drug Foundation says where you live plays a big part in whether people are prosecuted for drug offences and whether they are offered treatment as an alternative.

The foundation has published its latest state of the nation report, showing 44 percent of convictions for drug offences are Màori.

Principal policy advisor Kali Mercier says that’s obviously disproportionate and a sign of why people need to vote for change in next year’s referendum.

She says by breaking down the results geographically it’s clear there hasn’t been consistent application of the law, with people in the South Island or Auckland much more likely to get an alternative to court.

“If you’re in Auckland you’re half as likely to be convicted for a cannabis offence than if you are in Northland. It may be thee is more cannabis going on in Northland than in Auckland but that’s quite a big difference in terms of whether you are going to be convicted so we think that’s more likely to be about the way the police are prioritising things, if they’re thinking in Auckland ‘it’s just cannabis,’ whereas in Northland they’re going ‘no, we’re going to prosecute for this,’” Ms Mercier says.

She says it will be interesting to see how a recent change in drug law regarding possession for personal use will show up in next year’s report, especially with regard to the Maori conviction rate.

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