The connection between youth offending and drug and alcohol use cannot be denied. Drugs and alcohol are part of the personal stories of most young offenders in New Zealand. International criminological and drug literature supports the view that those young people who use illicit drugs are more likely to engage in criminal activity.
1 Further investigations show a clear link between the age at which a young a person first tries marijuana and the likelihood that they will engage in an antisocial behaviour
.2 Worryingly, the age at which young people in New Zealand are using cannabis for the first time is dropping.
2 Drugs, alcohol, and young offenders
His Honour Judge John Walker estimates that 80% of young people appearing in the Youth Court have alcohol or drug dependency or abuse issues that are connected with their offending.7 Judge Walker believes that, by the time these 15 and 16 year olds come to court, their dependency is already well established, with many presenting histories of drug and alcohol use that started when they were as young as 10 years old. These young people are often in households where drug and alcohol use is a normal part of life; where parents and siblings are responsible for supplying teenagers with alcohol and drugs and modelling behaviour and attitudes that promote binge drinking and substance abuse.
Judge Walker labels drug and alcohol problems amongst young offenders as an underlying cause of offending. In his view, responding to this issue in order to reduce youth crime requires a multidisciplinary, interagency, whole of community attack!
Cannabis is also widely used by young offenders appearing in the New Zealand Youth Court. There is evidence of new hybrid strains of cannabis are appearing, which, together with new growing techniques, and the reinvigoration of sensemilla,12 has meant a significant increase in the potency of this drug. Also, the age at which cannabis is first...