Crown must honor Te Tiriti with Cannabis Law Reform

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Today leading Māori health and public health organisations called on the Crown to meet its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi as it drafts legislation for the regulation of cannabis. More than 50 Māori leaders joined the call for Māori rights and interests to be put front and centre of proposed cannabis regulations.

“Our message is clear – we expect cannabis regulations to be designed with and by Māori, under a Te Tiriti o Waitangi framework, and to promote the rights and interests of whānau, hapū and iwi,” said Drug Foundation Chair Tuari Potiki.

“We’ve come up with concrete proposals for how to achieve this. This includes the Crown working with us to establish a kaupapa Māori agency that’s mandated to negotiate and lead the development of regulations on behalf of our people,” said Mr Potiki.

The need to protect Māori rights and interests was acknowledged by the Crown in its proposed legal cannabis framework (which was detailed in a cabinet paper released 7 May 2019). However, the Crown has not said how it intends to meet these obligations. Some initial consultation with Māori has occurred, but there is significant work still to be done to meet the standard for meaningful engagement on this critical issue.

“Achieving better health, social justice and economic outcomes for Māori communities through the regulation of cannabis must be explicitly stated as a top priority for the Crown,” said Te Rau Ora CEO Maria Baker.

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“We’ve seen from the experience of First Nations in Canada, that if this is not a top priority and there isn’t early and meaningful engagement with indigenous communities, then our people won’t see the benefits we should expect,” said Ms Baker.

The statement is not about whether cannabis should be legalised, but rather if the country votes yes next year, how will Māori be better off. Te Rau Ora, the Drug Foundation and Hāpai Te Hauora all support legalising cannabis as it would immediately stop thousands of our Māori being criminalised, but it will only be truly transformational for Māori health, justice and economic outcomes if the regulations reflect a kaupapa Māori approach.

“Māori are more likely to suffer the multiple social and health harms from cannabis use, less likely to be able to access health treatment, and are far more likely to be convicted than other groups. We must be part of the process to design cannabis regulations,” said Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Selah Hart.

“This situation is a fundamental breach of Te Tiriti as it is the result of compounding issues arising from colonisation – there were no substance use issues in te ao Māori in precolonial times,” said Ms Hart.

Following the release of the Crown’s proposed approach in May, the three organisations have talked with whānau, hapū, iwi and hāpori throughout Aotearoa. There are a range of views on whether legalisation is welcomed, but strong agreement on the need to involve Māori in decision-making.

The key expectations put forward in the statement are ensuring that:
• Whānau, hapū, iwi and hāpori are meaningfully engaged at each point in the development of the Bill and regulations, through negotiation, and in a process of co-design and co-determination. A kaupapa Māori agency with broad mandate should be recognised to lead on behalf of Māori.
• Any regulatory model upholds Māori rights and interests under Te Tiriti o Waitangi across the areas of health, justice, and economic development.
• The regulatory model will actively work to address the wrongs of the past, and to resource and support the people who have suffered disproportionate harms under prohibition. This could include an apology and acknowledgement of wrongs, alongside concrete pathways for redress, such as wiping previous cannabis-related convictions.
• The model cannot be hijacked by profit motives. This means keeping at least part of the supply chain non-profit. Regulations should be completely watertight at prioritising kaupapa Māori interests above industry interests.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “More than 50 Māori leaders joined the call for Māori rights and interests to be put front and centre of proposed cannabis regulations. ” This is called, apartheid. In a democracy, we all have equal rights and interests.

    “Regulations should be completely watertight at prioritising kaupapa Māori interests above industry interests.” Industry needs to be defined.

    It seems to me that anyone, pink,yellow, brown or purple, growing pot for sale is an industry/business.

    Maori gangs growing and selling marijuana have not been doing so for medical or philanthropic reasons, they do it to make money.

    Regulations should be effected so that the pink, yellow, brown or purple people growing marijuana on lifestyle blocks for their own use aren’t negatively impacted upon.

    It seems to me that anyone, pink,yellow, brown or purple, growing pot for sale is an industry/business. Maori gangs growing and selling marijuana have not been doing so for medical or philanthropic reasons, they do it to make money.

    Any legislation which appears to prioritise Maori above other ethnic groups, won’t pass. Public perception is likely to be that gangs are being enabled to monopolise pot production legally, instead of illegally.

    • So gangs is the same as Māori in your world?

      Are you competent in supply and demand?

      They mean grow your own when they say a part of the supply chain should be not for profit.

      • Sam – No gangs/Maori not the same, but gangs are regarded as largely controlling growing and selling pot as a profitable business, and they’re not always the nicest of people.

        No, not competent on supply or demand, and no strong views on legalising marijuana, but basically pro, and think that medical cannabis should have been readily and legally available long before now. Having it under eg Pharmac’s control – could be bad news for everybody.

        It is when one group demand that their rights and interests be front and centre of regulations, and use the Treaty to justify preferential treatment, that people who are fairly relaxed about the whole issue are likely to rethink it.

        This particular demand may also be a tactical error – but that’s beside the point.

        • Well that would be reasonable and I can understand your point of view that nothing really happens for decades and decades, and then decades happen with in a week. We are building in New Zealand a tension and a kind of explosion that is going to take people by surprise. I think kiwis are beginning to recognise that the problem here isn’t this or that law, this or that party, this or that regulation that there is slowly coming to ahead that there is a recognition that Y’know what the whole system is the problem.

          Everyone is doing there bit. Everyone is playing more or less by the rules. Sure there are people who bend the rules but business does what is profitable for business and workers do what is profitable for workers. Everyone is doing what the system is urging them to do following the rewards and punishments BUT! The end result is no good.

          So what begins to have to happen is the recognition that the system has to change. That is the effect we are coming towards which is what I call a Singapore moment where everyone realises that the money being put forward for recovery from the Christchurch earthquake or finically meltdown or losing a job or what ever does not equal the investment requirements.

          Legalising marijuana is one of those things where we have nothing happen for decades and in a few weeks we are expected to have decades of recovery starting with recovery from colonisation. All over New Zealand Maori expect action on the level of a Christchurch recovery and all over Māori are fighting to make sure that they don’t get burnt and that the settlement money does not bypass them AND are not now going to have to pay for settlement quantum a via taxation. Māori will not allow that.

          Non Māori sit quite. Every Māori wonders why aren’t they fighting, why aren’t they protesting. Then all of a sudden Ihumatua becomes front page news. So we have a sign that the right kind of combination of protest is a brilliant way to summarise a lot of complicated information in an easy to understand story. No one wants to be referred to as a coloniser Y’know even Stats NZ organises there work this way. Pania Newton was a flash and she is important but she was the first wave and there will be more. Maybe it’s marijuana, maybe it’s The Ministry for children.

          But Māori can not be contained in a society that is built on the kiwi dream that if you go to school get a degree or even if you don’t but if you work hard then you will get a descent home and income, have a holiday, give children an education…, no, instead these things are being taken away by a population that have a the kiwi dream and even told these things are coming to you just work a little harder and one by one new barriers to entry are erected. The sense of betrayal and the sense of anger is sitting there just below the surface.

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