The Drug Foundation wants less money spent on drug enforcement and more on prevention and treatment, especially for Māori.

The foundation is part of the Health Not Handcuffs Coalition, which is calling on the Government to remove criminal penalties for drug use and possession and move instead to a health-referral model.

Its Māori advocacy advisor Jack MacDonald says the example of Portugal, which scrapped all drug penalties 20 years ago, shows what can happen when governments are able to shift resources into reducing harm.

New Zealand spends three times as much on enforcement of drug laws than on prevention and treatment, and the coalition would like to see the treatment budget doubled.

He says that should involve a shift of resources to Māori health organisations like Hāpai Te Hauora and Te Rau Ora.

"Because they’re the sorts of organisations that know the solutions for our own people. That's a critical part of it, not just changing the law, but also massively increasing funding for treatment and education," MacDonald says.


Waatea News: Listen to the full interview here