West Australians, especially parents, are being urged to mount a campaign
against the State Government's plans to soften cannabis laws.

Liberal leader Colin Barnett yesterday released a report by the party's
drug strategy spokesman Simon O'Brien which showed similar policies in
South Australia had led to growth in organised crime and drug-related home
invasions.

Mr Barnett said the report, Decriminalisation Of Cannabis: The Wrong
Approach, also showed greatly increased availability of cannabis to young
people in SA following changes in its laws and minimal impact on freeing up
the court system. Making cannabis a "little bit legal" was sending the
wrong message to young people, he said, especially when medical evidence
linked its use to mental illness.

"To ignore this evidence and push ahead with decriminalisation would be
madness and I urge the community, particularly parents, to lobby the
Government to abandon its policy," he said.

He said the Government's proposed laws - to decriminalise the possession of
small amounts of cannabis and the cultivation of two plants - was
inconsistent with its other recent legislation targeting organised crime.

In SA, decriminalisation had resulted in organised crime groups providing
hydroponic equipment to individual growers who then got a cut from major
deals, the involvement of bikie gangs in growing cannabis and armed
home-invasions.

Fifty-five per cent of 14-19 year olds in SA had used cannabis compared
with the national average of 45 per cent, Mr Barnett said. The Government
appointed a drug law reform working group after the community drug summit
last August to consider how to decriminalise the possession and cultivation
of small amounts of cannabis. It is expected to report by March 31.

Mr O'Brien, who worked in the Australian Customs Service for 16 years
before entering politics, said a single hydroponically grown plant could
produce up to 1kg of cannabis and could be harvested four times a year.

But an average daily smoker consumed about 520g a year which meant that an
individual could grow 23 times more cannabis in a year than a daily smoker
would use.

Mr Barnett said the hydroponically-grown cannabis being sold today was much
more potent than the cannabis smoked during the 1960s and 1970s.

Premier Geoff Gallop denied the Government was going soft on drugs and said
it would continue to penalise dealers.


Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Mar 2002
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2002 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Contact: letters@wanews.com.au
Website: http://www.thewest.com.au
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/495
Author: Liz Tickner