Law not consistent in drug sentences - report

Canada has emerged as the leading source of pure methamphetamine to New Zealand. Photo: File
Low level methamphetamine convictions have outstripped those for cannabis for the first time. Photo: File
Drug offenders in the South are more likely to get diversion than almost anywhere else in the country, a new report has revealed.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation released its 2019 State of the Nation report yesterday, which showed low-level methamphetamine convictions outstripping cannabis convictions for the first time.

It also highlighted a disparity between how low-level offenders were treated in different policing districts, an issue that foundation policy and advocacy manager Kali Mercier said showed drug policy needed "a complete rewrite".

According to the report, 63% of people with drug charges in the Southern police district were given diversion in the 2018-19 year.

That was on par with Auckland City for the highest rate of diversion in the country.

At the opposite end of the scale were Northland and Bay of Plenty.

The Southern district also had the fourth-lowest rate of cannabis convictions, and the lowest rate of convictions for low-level drug offences.

Area prevention manager Inspector Wil Black said police were "deeply determined to assist and support those suffering with drug addiction.

"When dealing with someone suspected of drug offences, police will consider the whole picture of offending.

"Those who supply illicit drugs to our communities, ensnaring people into addiction and causing huge harm, will face every power police has to prevent offending, prosecute offenders and seize the proceeds of illegal activity."

But low-level offenders who suffered from addiction or deprivation could benefit from a more holistic approach, he said.

"Every case is dealt with in accordance with the individual circumstances."

Ms Mercier said it was widely accepted that drug use should be treated as a health and social issue, and the inconsistent figures were concerning.

"In one part of the country you may be given a stern warning whereas in another you're convicted for the same offence.

"It's hard to fathom why people doing exactly the same thing should be dealt with so differently. This is one of many signs the current punitive approach to drugs is overdue for a complete rewrite. We need to start over and build a law that works to improve health and social outcomes."

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