NZ Herald 11 May 2021
Police appear to have made a concerted effort to charge fewer drug users to close the gap in their treatment of Māori in the months since the election.
Frontline officers also appear to be offering more health referrals, though the proportion of those engaging with health services remains less than 3 per cent of all those who face drug use/possession charges as their most serious offence.
This follows a message from Health Minister Andrew Little after the cannabis referendum that people should almost automatically not be charged but given a health referral if their most serious offence was drug use/possession.
New police data released to the Herald under the Official Information Act shows how police have used their discretion from November last year to February this year.
Of those facing the possibility of being charged with drug use/possession as their most serious offence, one in five people – or 20 per cent – was charged.
The proportion with respect to cannabis dropped to one in 10 people, while more than half (54 per cent) were charged for methamphetamine.
Police also appear to be making more of an effort to treat Māori and non-Māori the same, though they are still more likely to be charged; 22 per cent of Māori were charged overall, while 12 per cent of Māori were charged for cannabis and 56 per cent were charged with having methamphetamine.
Frontline officers were already trending towards charging fewer people before the election, but in recent months they also appear to be encountering fewer people with drugs.
Both of these factors contributed to far fewer people being charged – 56 people a month – in recent months with drug use/possession as their most serious offence. Before a key change to drug laws in August 2019, it was about 130 people a month.
These trends in police data are similar to those in Ministry of Justice data, which showed 580 convictions for drug use/possession only in 2020 – a 37 per cent reduction compared to the 920 convictions in 2018.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/politics/drug-law-impact-revealed-number-of-people-charged-per-month-dropping-dramatically-less-bias-against-maori/WQBN5JSLNN5XTN4HYZAFUT7XSE/#