16 Jan 2019

Meth convictions rising but cannabis offences down

12:39 pm on 16 January 2019

Cannabis convictions may be falling but methamphetamine convictions are on the rise, a new study has found.

No caption

Photo: photo / 123R

The report State of the Nation 2018: A stocktake of how New Zealand is dealing with the issue of drugs is the first of a new annual report by the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

It found that low-level drug offences - defined as charges for person use, possession, and use or possession of a drug utensil - made up 61 percent of all drug offences in the decade to 2017.

Drug convictions in New Zealand almost halved between 2009 and 2015 but have risen by 14 percent in the last year, with around 5000 people convicted every year, the report said.

In 2017, 3833 people were convicted of low-level drug offences with nearly half of them under 30 years old and 41 per cent of them Māori.

It's a worrying trend, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Kali Mercier said.

"Too many people are convicted on low-level drug charges every year."

"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," she said.

The report also found that more people were being imprisoned for low-level drug convictions, with more than 50 percent of them Māori.

Ms Mercier said the foundation wants a health-based approach that would end the criminalising of people found in possession of a small amount of drugs.

"We'd like to see them given a health referral so that they can actually have the option to get help and assistance if they need it or if they don't need it so they can go on there way without coming in contact with the criminal justice system, which is a disproportional response to an action that's often not harming another person."

However, the report also highlighted that there was a need for more addiction treatment, with only eight extra full-time addiction treatment positions funded from 2013 - 2017.

"We've never had enough investment in addictions treatment in New Zealand and what we're actually calling for is a doubling in treatment in next years' budget.

"Most people would be surprised to know that New Zealand spends three-and-a-half times more on drug law enforcement than it does on treating people who have issues with drug harm."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs