La Trobe
1198290_Rapana,W_2022.pdf (797.53 kB)

Indigenous people in Aotearoa New Zealand are overrepresented in cannabis convictions

Download (797.53 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-05, 06:52 authored by W Rapana, T Winter, R Fox, Benjamin RiordanBenjamin Riordan, R Kulkarni, W Waitoki, D Scarf
Background: Previous work has demonstrated that cannabis laws have had a disproportionate impact on Māori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2019, the New Zealand Government amended cannabis laws, providing police with the power to determine whether a therapeutic or health-centred approach would be more beneficial than a conviction. In the current study, we use population level data to assess whether this law change has ameliorated the bias in cannabis convictions for Māori. Methods: Data were drawn from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), a large government database hosted by Aotearoa New Zealand’s national statistics office. In the IDI, we selected individuals who (1) were between 18 and 65, (2) were Māori or Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) and, (3) had any cannabis charges that proceeded to the courts. Results: Māori ethnicity was a significant predictor of the odds of receiving a cannabis conviction for Māori males (Odds: 1.56), with a marginally significant effect for Māori females (Odds: 1.57). Further, for Māori, there was no reduction in the number of cannabis charges before vs. after the amendment to cannabis laws. Conclusion: The current study demonstrates that the bias in cannabis convictions for Māori remain. Given this, the New Zealand Government must follow other countries around the world and move forward on cannabis law reform.


This research was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The funders had no role in the design of the current study.


Publication Date



Harm Reduction Journal





Article Number





Springer Nature



Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.