GROWING two cannabis plants, or fewer, in the backyard and possessing up to
25g of marijuana will result in a fine instead of a criminal conviction
under a Gallop Government plan on drugs released yesterday.

The Government has set up a committee to rewrite the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The committee is due to report by March on penalties for infractions by
people growing two cannabis plants or fewer for their own use.

The previous coalition government brought in a cautioning system which
applied only to first offenders in possession of 25g of cannabis or less.

The cautioned offenders were not fined but were required to attend drug
education classes. Further offences were dealt with by courts.

Premier Geoff Gallop said yesterday that despite the delay in implementing
the proposed legislation, the WA Police Service had been asked to
immediately extend the current cautioning system to all offenders. Police
have also been asked to caution people found with one or two cannabis
plants in their backyard before the legislation, due next year, is
introduced. Those people will still be required to attend drug education
classes.

A similar system in South Australia imposes fines ranging from $50 to $150
for the possession of up to 100g of marijuana and the cultivation of three,
or fewer, cannabis plants before a criminal offence is recorded.

The response to the community drug summit's recommendations for prohibition
with civil penalties in relation to marijuana use also mentions new laws
which will help police prevent drug trafficking.

There will be a public education campaign about changes to the laws and the
risks associated with using marijuana or other cannabis-derived drugs such
as hashish.

The Government will continue to monitor marijuana use among Year 7 to Year
12 students. Monitoring of the potency of the drug will also continue. A
spokeswoman for Health Minister Bob Kucera said it was likely that the task
force looking at cannabis laws would also consider the medical use of cannabis.

In 2000-01, 75 per cent of all drug offences related to marijuana use - 50
per cent of those charges related to possession of the drug.

More than 93 per cent of the 10,056 people charged last financial year with
possession of marijuana, or with implements designed to smoke it, ended up
before the courts.

Dr Gallop said such people were tying up the courts and precious police
resources were being wasted.

Simon Lenton, research fellow at the National Drug Research Institute based
at Curtin University, supported the Government's response yesterday, adding
that there was no evidence that South Australia's prohibition with
penalties approach to cannabis had led to increased use of the drug.

Mr Lenton said that despite prohibition, the cultivation of cannabis in WA
backyards took place to the same extent as that in South Australia.


Newshawk: Russell, Ken PS, GE Harris-UK
Pubdate: Wed, 28 Nov 2001
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Contact: letters@wanews.com.au
Website: http://www.thewest.com.au
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/495
Author: Wendy Pryer