Waatea News Column: Labour refuse to do anything about racist drug laws


An unprecedented coalition of 25 organisations like the New Zealand Medical Association, the Mental Health Foundation, the Public Health Association, the Maori Law Society, the Drug Foundation, Hapai te Hauora, and JustSpeak have called on drug reform citing health and societal issues while pointing out how racist our drug laws are.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 hasn’t been significantly updated in 46 years and the level of knowledge we now have with drugs demands reflection.

Rewriting the law putting science at its centre would see a focus on rehabilitation and harm minimisation which would make an enormous difference to Māori communities because they bear the brunt of the war on drugs.

So what has been the Governments response to such an unprecedented call for action?

Bewilderingly Justice Minister Andrew Little has simply shrugged the call for reform off and has started a new referendum that will be required for any reform.

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His argument is that last year’s cannabis referendum ties the Government’s hands-on decriminalisation and as such the status quo must continue, which is cold comfort to the many Māori who are disproportionately criminalised by our war on drugs.

The Labour Party have a Parliamentary majority, if they aren’t prepared to use it to end racist drug laws, what was the point of electing them in the first place.


First published on Waatea News.


  1. Another massive arse-bite coming up for NZ Labour on this one. If the Green Party can get their shit together, there will likely be a return to a multi party MMP Govt. in 2023 and legalisation of Cannabis will happen.

    Legalisation–need I say it?–will be especially good for Māori people, and give various start up businesses a chance and boost the non dairy economy.

    Wtf drives Minister Little on this really? The Labour Caucus does seem more committed to maintaining neo liberal hegemony, and pandering to switch voters than anything else.

  2. Jacinda is apparently waiting for “cross-party support”:
    Collins pours cold water on JA’s hope

    Where is the strong, decisive leader we had when Covid first arrived?
    Has someone kidnapped her and sent a replacement?
    We need that person back – the one who saw what needed to be done and acted on it without hesitation, none of this wait-for-consensus shilly shallying. Consensus only ever gives a watered-down version of what’s needed, if anything at all, and can tie up parliamentary discussions indefinitely.

    • Her response to covid was about taking more of our rights away, not giving us more rights to freedom. That’s the reason there is a disparity between her responses on covid vs cannabis. Ultimately it comes down to power, and her use of it through either hardcore action like lock downs or refusing to do anything meaningful to address our punitive drug laws, housing crisis, infrastructure defeceit and mental health issues.

      • Her response to covid was about taking more of our rights away, not giving us more rights to freedom.

        It worked – It FREED us from future lockdowns which have plagued just about every other country. It was short term pain for long term gain – and again, it worked. It gave us the freedoms we now have, which other countries have not had.

        However for the rest of your comment, yes. We are desperately in need of much stronger leadership now. It is a bit heartbreaking to see her constantly waiting to get approval from every last non-working braincell in NZ. Pitiful!! Tragic. …because they (Labour) are not going to get another opportunity like this – NOW is the time – It is all there in front of her – To TAKE ACTION! To do what she knows needs to be done.

  3. “Where is the strong, decisive leader we had when Covid first arrived?”

    I really have to burst your your bubble there Kheala.

    Ardern is just a cardboard cut out leader pretending to do the leadership thing.
    Silly girl if she fired up a few more brain cells ( sigh! we do live in hope they’re in there)she could take every spineless prick in Labour and the odious state sector on and transform NZ. The support is there and the women of NZ would deify her for generations to come.

    • Yes Shona Jacinda really has the potential to to transform our country back to a more egalitarian and prosperous society. She would be seen as the Kate Shepherd of our time and more for doing so. We would replace the Queen’s birthday with her birthday. I have my doubts but live in hope as that is all some of us have left.

      • So if she indeed is strong and effective, makes the hard decisions, she will be seen as being running a dictatorship,communism by stealth etc etc. Yet ironically this is how Key ran the country.

      • Instead she is like the other Kate…the Middleton one that is there to get as many likes and magazine cover shots as possible. Engineered to be loved. Read the scripts, deliver the lines, look empathetic – do fuck all.

  4. And yet Labour are happy to let alcohol be sold on Easter yet alcohol is the root cause of many social issues and many health problems. We have bottle stores everywhere. The Greens and the Maori Party may be able to leverage some more vote and possibly more seats on these issues.

  5. At the referendum I drew on what I heard at information nights and my own experience to vote NO and was happy with doing so. However when I see the list of those signing this request to change the law I acknowledge they are far more qualified than I
    am to make this decision so would accept change . Andrew Little needs to show he can listen and not hide behind the referendum especially as it was so close .

    • Sorry dude but the information presented to you was false information. Think of this- Our highly qualified scientists came to the conclusion its safe to use, the only people most against it being Family First, Bob Mckroskrie has a degree in economics. Do health degrees hold more weight than an economics degree as to knowledge on a subject involving health?
      You should also be made aware that the Family First campaign and the Nope to Dope campaign had the same campaign mailing address meaning they broke electoral law by overspending on a campaign.
      Family First also had this habit of redacting articles published and adding his own comments to try make his own points hold more weight.
      Family First is before the courts as we speak, they arent a charity at all, they’re just a right wing lobby group. They complained about the $300k The Drug Foundation got to spend but if you were to look at the charities register you would see Family First donations have ballooned out to over a million dollars.
      Be wary of information handed to you, do your own research on the benefits of cannabis. You have been blinded by massive amounts of misinformation.
      Also note that Family First doesnt want to attack alcohol and all the harm that causes, in fact its 3 times more harm than cannabis but Bob doesnt want you to see that fact.

  6. Any chance of refraining from sensationalist race-baiting headlines Martyn?

    There aren’t any “racist” drug laws in NZ. Just poor drug laws.

    It was a bit dim of the government not to include decriminalization in last year’s referendum. I would’ve voted for decriminalization, and I suspect that a majority of Kiwis would have.

    • It was a bit dim of the government not to include decriminalization in last year’s referendum.

      Strongly agree with that comment.
      What were they thinking??

    • not racist? then how is it more Maori and Pasifka people are convicted for drug possession, dealing etc than non Polynesians? And yes it is disproportionate to their percentage of the population. You only have to spend some time in our District Courts to see the racist attitudes of the Judges and legal profession generally at work . Yes it is improving. Yes there is an awareness growing among the judiciary but confidence in understanding the system that is passing judgement on them is the crux of the issue for defendants. And in my experience as a support person in the court system brown people are frequently fucked over due to racial prejudice based on outright ignorance on the part of the judges.

      • Shona I’m not denying the existence of prejudice, or the fact that many Maori face disadvantages. My point is that inequalities of outcome is this case are not the result of racist LAWS, so Martyn’s headline is shoddy sensationalist journalism. South Africa under apartheid had racist laws. The US in the Jim Crow era had racist laws. I understand NZ has had racist laws in the past too – but I’m not aware of any nowadays.

      • More males are convicted of sexual assaults, I guess that makes our criminal justice system sexist and in need of amending?

        • False equivalence by BG.
          Assaults: A far greater majority of that group (males) made and enacted our present laws. Those breaking the relevant laws are from that same group (males).

          The same cannot be said for cannabis laws.

  7. And through the continuation of the war on drugs, thus “fear in a population”, though in their defence this government can’t be deemed terrorists because they haven’t acted on anything.

  8. Little also said the referendum amounted to an unofficial decriminalization of possession. Here in Gisborne no one can take it seriously anymore but they send the new police recruits up here to learn their business, so …

    Better it should be ‘officially’ decriminalized, which is 101 for social democrats thinking on behalf of the desperate classes. Except Labour is another beast.

  9. Completely racist. But so many who endlessly need to have it explained. Why our 19th century socialist predecessors following the christian evangelical model of ‘bringing the word’ put proslytization first above everything.

    I, being of average intellect — it’s not easy to spew the arguments straight up — and always surrounded by people who didn’t understand, find myself just irritated by the ignoramuses. Why I often use far too short a hand here — I assume you lot understand.

  10. If you had been involved in the history of cannabis in NZ you would have noticed coalition partners with extreme right wing thinking blocking any progress on cannabis, we all thought it was just the minor parties that were the issue but now Labour stands alone and still refusing the change tells me Labour isnt any different in thinking to those extreme right wing coalition partners.
    I mean it isnt just drugs, its poverty and housing too, Labour has lost sight of who they are meant to represent.
    Labour doing nothing about the misinformation during the referendum was the telling point, Andrew Little made statements they would deal to it but then sat on their hands and did nothing.
    They made it non binding so if we did win they could still say no.
    Then as the final tell, they announced our defeat based on the preliminary results rather than final.

    They never had any intention of proceeding!

  11. Extremely disappointing reaction by Little. Stop throwing important issues out to referenda, listen to people who actually know what they’re talking about and show a bit of fucking leadership.

  12. A million voters voted yes, my thinking is unless the Government starts on reform, those million voters, who seem to be Labour/Green voters as well, need to vote for another party…does not matter, the Banana Party.

    Do not let the Government take your vote for granted. Make them earn it

  13. The problem is that these organisations don’t represent Maori. They’re all institutional entities that deal with monitoring and measuring inputs and outputs.
    It’s the elders-kaumatua who decide these things and unfortunately, they’re all stuck in the ’60s.

    That’s how Tikanga works.

  14. Is it a racist drug law? I’d say yes; an european type metabolism can withstand a great deal of alcohol -why? – their collective digestive metabolism has been tuned to a wheat based diet over thousands of years. Indigenous peoples who have utilised a more natural diet, un-distilled plant nutrients as opposed to highly processed manufactured victuals cannot assimilate the types and amounts of alcohol being legally pushed on every corner.
    Is it a classist drug law? I’d say yes again.(poor people are not allowed to grow their own weed are they?)
    Is it a misogynist drug law?
    Is it an ageist drug law?
    Is it a speciesist drug law? Is it not a human right to be able to grow a plant which is held sacred by this planet?


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