Cannabis: it’s a crime

In June I wrote this one: Medical Marijuana, and so with an Australian boy having faced a Bali court, it is perhaps now timely to once again reflect on this issue, and while empathy with the boy is certainly warranted it also poses the question: what happens to someone in Australia caught with a similar small amount of cannabis.

The most recent data comes from the Australian Crime Commission’s annual illicit drug report for 2010 which provides that there were 57,170 arrests of adults and minors for cannabis possession, being over 1,000 people a week.

To be specific, this is not trafficking and not supply, but possession for personal consumption only.

When compared with countries such as Indonesia and a number of other countries in our region, a significant proportion of these people are likely to receive as a penalty a caution, a fine or diversion into education or treatment.

However, as the stats prove if a person is indigenous, then it is more likely they will join the ranks of those charged and brought before the court system. A conviction for any criminal offence can have lifelong consequences. For example, try obtaining employment with a ”drug conviction” where applications have a requirement about drugs use and criminal convictions, or try travelling to the US and a number of other countries if you have a drug record. This is no matter how minor the offence or how long ago it occurred.

Yet the mainstream media would constantly call for harsher penalties, to come down tough on… and an example comes from WA premier praises tougher drug penalties

Perth would be absolute mayhem without West Australian Police Minister Rob Johnson’s hardline approach to illegal drugs, Premier Colin Barnett says.

The premier was defending Mr Johnson after claims the government’s tough new penalties for possessing cannabis will have no impact on the use of the drug in the community.

From August 1 harsher penalties for possessing, growing or selling cannabis would replace what Mr Johnson labelled the “relaxed, soft drug laws” of the previous Labor government.

Under the new laws, people will face heftier fines and possible jail for possessing 10 grams of cannabis.

Simplistic solutions to complex problems. Throw young people into jail and especially young Indigenous people, appease public demands whipped up by the frenetic bleatings of people who have absolutely no idea of the consequences often lifelong consequences of ‘coming down hard on’, something which is almost always a victimless crime.

If you want to see the consequences of ‘coming down hard on’ means in real life, then I would suggest: visit Bali.

36 comments on “Cannabis: it’s a crime

  1. Do I note a mood of cynicism?

    Its hard to believe they sold cannabis in Tasmanian chemist shops up until the 1950s. That’s when the Americans pushed hard to make it illegal world wide.

    Drug law reform is a sensible approach that would empty the gaols and provide government with a milking tax cow.

    On the question of mental illness, suicide and the like, alcohol is by far the most pernicious substance available.

  2. El gordo, which was precisely what my topic Medical Marijuana was about. It’s a medicine and should be treated as such. We at least in Australia have what I think is a sensible approach. It’s a substance used mostly by young people but even so, wouldn’t resources be better spent helping people with serious addictions than sending sniffer dogs to pick up kids having a fling during Schoolies Week.

  3. Hells bells el gordo, I agree with you that alcohol is pernicious when not used in moderation, but crystal meth actually eats holes in the brain and I’d include that as well.

    Marihuana is absorbed by the fat in the brain and takes 7 to 10 days to be cleared therefore regular users would be at least slightly stoned most of the time ….

  4. Pip, and there are of course ‘the truckies friends’ amphs and barbs. I friend of my ex brother in law had his nose eaten away due to snorting.

    You are right there as every applicant to the ADF knows and every mine worker knows..no dope for 2 weeks prior to the drugs test.

  5. Prohibition doesn’t work, so drug law reform will require a huge debate with all the legal and illegal substances on the table.

    Pip mentioned crystal meth and there are others which will remain illegal for obvious reasons, with treatment centers for those who have succumbed.

    No penalties for users, but the greedy gangsters need to be taught a lesson.

    With cannabis, the Californian experiment should bare fruit here before too long.

  6. El gordo, prohibition does not work with marijuana when everyone with hydroponic garden equipment can grow it. Hell, here on the north coast of NSW you don’t even need that it grows better than granny’s tomatoes.

    However a problem is the way that the police target people – they avoid the white middle class kids and target Aboriginal and gays and in fact anyone who isn’t the aforementioned white and middle class.

    Perhaps it’s a problem with the way that the Court System deals with people..all about perceptions. My Criminal Law lecturer David Heilpern wrote a good one: Rough Deal: your guide to drug laws. Highly recommended reading for anyone who finds themselves or their children find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

  7. el gordo, that was an unnecessary remark you made at GT. What 26 minutes too long for the fragile ego? I think you owe an apology here.
    Notwithstanding, I agree with your reasoned comments.

    I’ve often wondered how many drug busts are are initiated by information from the market competition.

    There is no doubt that for some pot can play havoc with their lives…I’ve met quite a few. But could not the time and effort put in by law enforcement policing pot be better spent elsewhere?

  8. Agreed Handyrab, pretty quick off the trigger wasn’t she. By the time that she had bolted over to GT for a whinge Pip and I had already responded.

    The Indonesian experience is a strange one..how they can be so lenient about people smuggling (of all types) but so over the top regarding minor drugs offenses. I remember reading a long time ago that the harsh on drugs thing was because they wanted to keep Bali pristine clean, a veritable paradise on earth..clearly a dismal failure.

  9. ‘I think you owe an apology here.’

    For talking to myself?

    Over indulgence of anything is harmful, particularly food, which brings me to the conclusion homo sapiens are in a pickle.

    The Koories are visible and always in trouble, this ‘right of passage’ thing must stop and Min is correct in thinking the police and judiciary target the under class. There is nothing new under the sun.

    When all the intoxicants are on the table it will be apparent which substances are relatively benign in moderation and those that are not.

    I would like to see the return of the Summary Offences Act in NSW, to clear the drunks off the streets. A few hours in the clink should sober them up.

  10. I’ve seen besuited ‘gentlemen’ in the Forbes Hotel being more offensive than the blathering drunk koorie in Wynyard Park. I guess it is where you get drunk and become offensive that matters.

    The Summary Offences Act has been removed but the police still have powers should they choose to use them.

  11. El gordo re your comment at GT: Min don’t get yourself in a knot…

    PLUS: Handyrab was clearly speaking about an earlier comment of yours over at GT. You complained that nobody at the Cafe had replied to you. Handyrab pointed out that it was only 26 minutes.

    Don’t worry sweetie, you’re next. Migs I know is quite happy to have you keep posting here, but keep playing these funny bugger games flipping from one blog to the other then you are going to find yourself alone and very very lonely.

    But back on topic, nearly all of my Indigenous in-laws are non-drinkers. From granny to the juniors. White Australians tend to drink in private but Indigenous people prefer the communal thing, the barbie on the foreshore and so are more visible. I also suspect that if the local Town Clerk’s son was picked up for drug or alcohol use that there would be all hell to pay but that for the Police Aboriginal people are considered ‘easy pickings’.

  12. ‘…you are going to find yourself alone and very very lonely.’

    In my parallel universe the cafe is just down the road from that filthy rag where I spend time, usually on my own most weekends when the weather is fine up the eastern seaboard.

    It seems they have real lives.

  13. I was thinking that now might be a timely reminder of things pertaining to the law. As most here know I studied Law at Southern Cross University and was lucky enough to have David Heilpern as my Criminal Law Lecturer. However, my real passion was for Constitutional Law..yes I know I’m strange.

    My study of Law was a natural flow on from the years that I spent as a Disability Advocate via both Anti-Discrimination NSW and HREOC. This was pertaining to kids with disabilities, specifically Aspergers Syndrome. In this I was lucky enough to work alongside one of the World leaders in this field Dr Tony Attwood.

    Which brings me to something that I was reading..it’s old stuff and very basic to the study of Law, but I just thought to mention:

    http://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/lrc.nsf/pages/r11appendixa

    Defamation.

    5. Any imputation concerning any person, or any member of his family, whether living or dead, by which the reputation of that person is likely to be injured, or by which he is likely to be injured in his profession or trade, or by which other persons are likely to be induced to shun or avoid or ridicule or despise him, is called defamatory, and the matter of the imputation is called defamatory matter.

  14. el gordo @1.43pm. You’re absolutely right. Drug law reform is way overdue, but it’s a very vexed issue and getting accord is like herding cats. Too many vested interests, I think.

    Unfortunately, Aboriginal people are easy targets on many levels and as Min has pointed out they tend to socialise in public places, like Victoria Square in Adelaide, a traditional gathering place.

  15. Let me guess why they congregate in public places. Would it have something to do with the loss of land and culture?

  16. The irony of these Asian countries who impose harsh penalties on people caught with drugs is that those same drugs are readily available in the jails they are locked up in. I hear that the guards are usually the suppliers.

  17. I think that it’s because Nana’s backyard is too small for the communal gathering so they all get together in the park at Brunswick Heads for the barbie.

    Strange isn’t it how a communcal gathering of white fellas is acceptable, a friendly family barbeque, but if it’s black fellas on the foreshore in Cairns they get told to move along.

  18. Min, you are right about the drinking habits of our indigenous. it would surprise some that fewer per head drink, than the wider population.

    Many are non drinkers,some I must admit, reformed drunks.

    The problem with this cohort is that when they drink alcohol, it appears to affect them more.

    When talking about marijuana, please do not compare it with the drug of decades ago that many experienced

    It is a much more harmful drug now. It causes depression and many other illnesses.

    Sometimes the illnesses and disorders are permanent.

  19. Min, in country towns, especially out back Queensland, it was not preferred, the truth is that under the trees was the only place they were allowed.

    The whites would head for the pubs. The indigenous to the parks. That is where they stayed for the day.

    It was my experience that those in Te parks were no worse behaved that those in the pubs.

    You stand out more in the streets.

    Matter of choice.? No there was no choice.

  20. Quote:

    … in country towns, especially out back Queensland, it was not preferred, the truth is that under the trees was the only place they were allowed.

    The whites would head for the pubs. The indigenous to the parks. That is where they stayed for the day.

    It was my experience that those in Te parks were no worse behaved that those in the pubs.

    You stand out more in the streets.

    Matter of choice.

    End of quote

    I don’t know about choice, there wasn’t too much choice about it if you weren’t welcome indoors, but otherwise this is pretty much how I remember it in NSW (except Sydney) when I was younger.

  21. If we want to win the drug war overnight and put back the gazillions into our health and welfare coffers which are now expended on increasingly draconioan policing, we could just legalise drugs.

    Day1: Legalise drugs

    Day 2: Drug crime drops to almost nil (there’s always a few late adopters)

    Day 3. Police corruption associated with drug crime drops to nil (yeah, lare adopters)

    Day 4: The need for fewer police becomes evident and money begins to be spent on hospitals, schools, roads … I mean, where do we THINK all that money went?

  22. Christine Says Hi, unfortunately it’s going to take a long time before we’re enlightened enough to decriminalise drugs. There’s too much political mileage in kick a junkie, kick an Abbo, kick an illegal, kick a dole bludger and until the political will is there there will never be a sensible approach to what are currently illegal drugs.

    I have a feeling that the ones who are so rabidly opposed to drug law reform are also making a profit out of them. Just sayin’

  23. Matter of choice.

    Sorry, left the ? off.

    I was being sarcastic.

    There was no choice.

    There was no choice either when they were fed in the yard on some of those stations.

    The one I had experience with, was one of the better ones.

    The one thing that did not occur, was to be invited to the dinner table.

    Sorry for the mistake. I did not mean to convey they had choice.

  24. Hi Christine, you are for some reason getting caught in the spaminator. Something technical for the boss to look into…. But apologies if there is any delay in any of your comments appearing..that’s the reason why.

  25. Oh no worries Min 🙂 I saw that new folks were moderated and perfectly understand!

    Now, would you like to go to this website and buy a lot of cheap stuff made by small, unpaid children ….

    *Grins*

  26. Christine..you’re not exactly ‘new’..just new-ish 😉

    Ah yes, you can always buy it online..cuts out the middle man such as shops.

  27. ‘It is a much more harmful drug now. It causes depression and many other illnesses.
    ‘Sometimes the illnesses and disorders are permanent.’

    The hydroponics is what’s being discussed and its a different quality, with potentially higher levels of THC.

    What happens, in real time, the average punter smokes less in the same way a civilised drinker restrains the urge to get plastered.

    We probably all know at least one person who has a mental disorder, not helped by cannabis abuse.

  28. “OIC, sorry to have mis-read that catching Up. Your intent was plain.”

    made clear after I fixed up my comment. Your reading was correct.

  29. Another one is that drivers are being drugs tested for cannabis, that people are now turning to E’s etc.

    They brought in the booze buses, so people smoked dope instead, they brought in the drugs testing the pee in a bottle thing for cannabis and so now it’s E’s and other so called party drugs.

  30. Hi el gordo, I agree cannabis nowadays is much stronger than in the past (perhaps a comparison between beer and fortified wine might be most appropriate) and medical info does indeed show some links between marijuana and verious psych conditions.

    However, I also think one of the reasons for this is the anti-drug culture which has led to very concentrated product being desirable for importers and sellers.

    In earlier times (still illegal but less likely to involve jackboots) many people grew a few weedy plants in the backyard for their own purposes and to sell at a small price (about $30 an ounce ~ imagine!) to interested friends. I’m not advocating that but am suggesting that in many ways it was less harmful on an individual level.

    My main concern though is not the individual level. While individuals affected by drugs have my every sympathy, as all addicts do, I see a clear social benefit in simple legalisation.

    One thing I’m sure we all realise the reality of, is that there is simply no way legalisation would make drugs MORE available. They are readily accessible to anyone who wants them, the risk of police attention exists but does not seem to be very severe and the people involved in commercial dealings have little to lose if caught.

    OK, I’ll stop there, lol … I am such a ramble onner!

  31. Sundays are good for rambling, Christine.

    It is a complex issue, but easy to resolve if goverments spent money educating the public on the dangers of excessive use.

    From there the tax resource and savings on reduced law enforcement will sway the electorate.

    A group of drunken louts can be a fearful sight, while a gathering of Chardonnay sipping, dope smoking professionals… is another thing entirely.

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