MARIJUANA smoking would be decriminalised, fines cut and users able to grow
10 plants without conviction under secret recommendations to State Parliament.

The Herald Sun has obtained a taxpayer-funded report, one of the most
detailed undertaken into marijuana in Victoria, revealing how to soften the
state's drug laws. The report backed civil penalties as small as $50 for
repeat marijuana smokers and said growing 10 plants or less constituted a
small amount for personal use.

It also suggested the Government could make money by taxing marijuana
production if greater controls were introduced over supply of the drug.

The 240-page report was handed to Parliament's powerful Drugs and Crime
Prevention Committee shortly before Steve Bracks became Premier. Only a few
copies are believed to have been printed.

The report has been kept secret despite the investigation by the respected
National Centre for

Research into the Prevention of Drug Abuse.

Key recommendations include:

SMALL quantities of cannabis for personal use to attract civil rather than
criminal penalties.

CAUTIONING for initial possession offences, with repeat offenders facing a
two-tier fine system of either $50 or $150.

ABOLISHING the offence of use of cannabis, but maintaining the offence of

MAINTAINING tough supply penalties, but automatically removing use offences
from the police record after two years.

MEASURES to prevent smokers facing conviction on a cannabis charge as a
result of not paying fines.

Under existing laws, people caught with less than 50g of marijuana receive
up to two cautions.

A third breach leads to court and a possible criminal conviction with a
fine of up to $500 for personal use.

Failure to release the report to the public has angered some committee
members, who believe their work was wasted.

The committee travelled overseas and collected thousands of pages of
evidence after Professor David

Penington was called by the Kennett government to head inquiries into the
drug problem.

Dr Penington was re-hired under Mr Bracks.

One MP familiar with the marijuana report said it was a disgrace so much
taxpayers' money was wasted.

"We are talking about millions of dollars and an enormous amount of effort
for some crucial information that never saw the light of day,"

he said.

Prominent Melbourne barrister Ian Freckleton and the former NSW Director of
Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, were consulted over the planned law

The National Centre for Research into the Prevention of Drug Abuse is one
of the country's most respected research bodies examining legal and illegal

The centre, based in Western Australia, argues there is evidence marijuana
is not as harmful as some other drugs.

Its preferred model, the centre claims, would not lead to wider use of

"While cannabis is not a harm-free drug, it is much less harmful than many
other currently illicit drugs and indeed some which are licit," the report

Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Aug 2001
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 News Limited