By Simon Day

It’s a stat the needs to be repeated: although making up just 15% of New Zealand’s populace, Māori are 51% of the prison population, and 40% of those are incarcerated for drug offences. While politicians avoid drug law reform, the police have effectively been given a mandate to decriminalise cannabis in practice. But the current arrangement isn’t close to working for New Zealand’s indigenous population, who face racial discrimination in the police’s subjective application of the law. Māori are again hugely overrepresented in convictions for possession or use of cannabis.   

As a senior lecturer in criminal law at AUT, Khylee Quince has examined the effects of police discrimination against Māori. As Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou, she has seen the same discrimination against her family and community. But even three years ago she wasn’t sure what was the right way to change outcomes for Māori.

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