Friday, 16 October 2009

WA Do Not Want Tougher Cannabis Laws from 1981

An update on the proposed new cannabis laws for WA.

Although the currently elected Liberals were ecstatic and clapped loudly for Colin Barnett’s plans it seems the public are not too happy to turn back the clock on the state’s cannabis laws. An article from PerthNow has attracted a whopping 544 comments to date with 99% of readers hammering Barnett’s new policies. This is the most commented article I have ever seen on any News Ltd. website. Also it’s not one of the main newspaper sites for Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane but Perth. Murdoch’s newspapers are notoriously aimed at conservatives and red necks which explains the negative feedback usually shown towards liberal drug issues. Why then, are readers of PerthNow raising so much opposition to tougher cannabis laws?

PerthNow had a poll that asked the readers, Does WA need tougher laws governing marijuana?
Out of 2364 votes, 43% said yes, 48% said no and 8% said What day is it?

Lies, Lies and More Lies
You might want to visit the government’s website and read their media release, Liberal-National Government to overturn soft-on-drugs legislation. Beware - it contains the usual deceptive, anti-drug rhetoric that has dominated the world’s political scene for decades.

It starts with the claim that the political enemy is “Soft on Drugs”. When translated from political babble, it usually means, “smart” on drugs via an attempt to deal with the drug issue rationally and realistically. The soft-on-drugs term is dying a slow death and is still only used by those who see the public as naive enough to swallow their spin. You may recall John Howard calling everyone soft-on-drugs when they mentioned any strategy that differed to his “Tough on Drugs” mantra. Barnett concludes in his opening paragraph that the soft-on-drugs approach “has left lives ruined”. This is a lie as drug use has continued to decreased under the so called soft-on-drugs strategy. Where is the media on this? Where is the opposition disputing these claims? To the contrary, Barnett’s tough-on-drugs proposal has been shown over and over again to ruin lives . How can such a blatant lie not be picked up?

Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs.
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

A gateway drug? The only time cannabis is a gateway drug is when users are forced underground and exposed to dealers and users of hard drugs. This happens when a government doesn’t separate soft drugs from hard drugs. But this is not what he meant. Barnett is subscribing to the old myth that cannabis is a stepping stone to harder drugs. This very claim should render the whole media release as fallacious political dribble. The gateway theory has been scientifically debunked many times over and is only used by desperate anti-drug nutters who are woefully detached from the drug issue. Even hardened anti-drug warriors have mostly given up on the gateway theory which again shows up Barnett as an out-of-touch meathead who is pushing through laws based on nothing more than his own misguided views. Where is the science and evidence behind such ridiculous claims? And again, why isn’t the media and the opposition shooting this down? Barnett is flat out lying and quoting urban myths as the basis for laws that affect millions of people is outright dangerous.

What about the claims of schizophrenia. This was ruled out last year by scientists as merely the effects of cannabis mimicking the symptoms of schizophrenia. When the effects of cannabis wore off, so did the supposed schizophrenia. Psychosis was also ruled out as being caused by cannabis except for those who have a family history of metal health problems. Barnett has lied again. For such an important health related law to be passed, you would expect that some scientific evidence be provided. The problem is that the latest evidence is completely polar to Barnett’s claims and any real attempt at providing evidence would be shot down is minutes.

The Government believes a tougher approach against drugs is necessary to send a clear message not to use drugs
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

This statement is just not acceptable from a state premier or a representative of the people. All evidence and research has shown that tough laws and penalties have never significantly deterred overall drug use in any country. Why hasn’t someone pointed out to the government that what they believe and what is true are completely different. If they really do believe this then the Barnett government need to step down now. Western Australians should not be governed by a group so obviously stupid ... and capable of such blatant lying.

The Government will also replace the failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN) with the Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS)
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

Failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN)? Just how has it failed? The main reason cited is that only 5% of those issued with a CIN attended a drug counselling course. Under Barnett’s new Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS), anyone issued a CIRS will have to attend a Cannabis Intervention Education course or face further charges. Again, a lack of understanding from the government has cannabis users earmarked as drug addicts or needing drug counselling. This is ludicrous as cannabis causes far fewer problems for users and society as does alcohol, which is legal and freely available to adults. Cannabis is not addictive and very few people end up with a dependency problem. Alcohol on the other hand is highly addictive and over a million people are classed as problem drinkers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to force those involved in alcohol related offences to be sent to counselling?

The elephant in the room is still the unanswered question - if the current policy is working why change it? Apart from the excuse that only 5% of those issued a CIN actually go to a drug counselling class, Barnett has simply said that the previous laws are soft-on-drugs. The way I see it is that it all boils down to Barnett’s personal views and modern conservative ideology. That or the South Park send up of anti-drug warriors and their simpleton approach ... drugs are bad, mmkay. There is no actual new evidence or findings to warrant these new drug laws. If anything, new strategies should be put on trial that follow the success of the current laws. The amounts seem fine at 30 grams and 2 plants and don’t need increasing but maybe we should consider legalising the 2 home grown plants for personal use. This would certainly remove many dealers and keep users away from them. There’s a whole range of ideas that could be implemented using proper, scientific monitoring to find the right balance between public acceptability and the right to use a relatively safe drug. The benefits would include the reduction of drug dealers, crime and unnecessary criminal records.

The repeal of the Cannabis Control Act will reinstate the primary responsibility for cannabis cautioning under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981.
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

Should we be going back to laws drafted 28 years ago? Worldwide experience has clearly shown that drug laws from the 1980s have caused societal carnage and ruined millions of lives including many preventable deaths. To ignore these facts is downright criminal and condemns many Australians to a life of misery. The 28 year old laws are steeped in ignorance and “Just Say No” drug hysteria which might appeal to Barnett and his troupe of silly old men but they should be left to history as a reminder of what not to do.

What we knew back then is a fraction of what we know today. Science and evidence based research has replaced ideology and moral panic. The many myths created back then have been debunked or laughed off and many of the policies have been the most unsuccessful ever put into law. For a current government to try and re-establish these dangerous and failed policies should send shock waves through the community. It appears that a large percentage of Western Australians understand the ramifications of such foolish actions and will undoubtedly be heard in the next election.

Sun 11 October, 2009
Liberal-National Government to overturn soft-on-drugs legislation [link]

Portfolio: Premier

New anti-cannabis laws will mark the start of the Liberal-National Government’s fight to turn around eight years of a soft-on-drugs approach by the previous Labor government which has left lives ruined.

Premier Colin Barnett today announced the Government would this week introduce legislation to repeal the Cannabis Control Act 2003 and make changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 and the Young Offenders Act 1994, sending a clear message that the current State Government did not endorse illicit drug use.

Mr Barnett said the cannabis-related legislation was the first in a series of steps the Government would take to send a clear anti-drugs message to the community and toughen penalties for people who broke the law through drug-related offences.

According to the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, cannabis was the most widely used illicit drug in Western Australia with an annual usage rate of 10.8 per cent.

“The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation,” the Premier said.

“Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs.

“The Government believes a tougher approach against drugs is necessary to send a clear message not to use drugs, but we also recognise the existence of a criminal record has a serious impact on a person’s future employment prospects. At present, once a conviction is recorded, it remains on a person’s criminal record for at least 10 years.

“Under the Government’s proposed laws, a person convicted of minor cannabis possession offences will be able to apply to have a conviction spent after three years, provided they are not convicted of further offences during that period.

“This approach ensures minor drug offenders who demonstrate they are prepared to take responsibility and rehabilitate themselves are given an opportunity to turn their lives around.”

The new cannabis-related laws will:

• prosecute the possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis. This is a reduction from the previous Labor government’s stance where prosecution only occurred when it was more than 30 grams
• result in subsequent offences for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences
• prosecute people for cultivating cannabis plants. Under the previous Labor government’s regime, people could grow two cannabis plants per person, per household without facing criminal charges
• make it illegal for cannabis smoking implements to be sold to anyone, including adults. Currently it is only an offence to sell these implements to children
• increase fines for the sale of smoking implements. The new laws will allow for fines of up to $5,000 for sale to an adult and up to $10,000 for sale to a minor. Bodies corporate will be fined equivalent to five times these amounts.

The Government will also replace the failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN) with the Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS).

“The CIRS has a primary focus on education and takes a firm, yet compassionate, approach to people found to be in possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis,” Mr Barnett said.

“Under the new scheme, anyone caught will have no option but to attend a Cannabis Intervention education session within 28 days of the offence or face prosecution through the courts.

“Unlike the soft system we have inherited where people can be issued with infringement notices ad nauseam, juveniles will only be eligible for two notices and adults for one.

“After that they will be prosecuted for further offences.”

A person will not be eligible for a CIRS if they are caught cultivating or in possession of plants.

The new CIRS sessions will differ significantly from the current CIN scheme because:
offenders will not have the option of just paying the fine and avoiding the education session
if a person fails to attend the session they will be prosecuted.
This year, under the soft system the Liberal-National Government inherited from Labor, only five per cent of offenders actually participated in an education session.

The Premier said further anti-drug legislation would be introduced in coming months.

“The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply,” he said.

“Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offences for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants.

“The Government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits.”

The repeal of the Cannabis Control Act will reinstate the primary responsibility for cannabis cautioning under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981.

With the repeal of the Act, all registered Cannabis Infringement notices will be deemed ‘paid’ after they have been registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry for 12 months. This will allow police to destroy their cannabis stockpile which is retained for evidentiary purposes.

Premier's office: 9222 9475

Related Articles:
The Final Proof - Colin Barnett is a Dickhead
Do Dickhead Politicians Grow on Trees in WA?
Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters
The Liberal Party on Drugs
WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues
WA Liberals Become Even Sillier


Concerned W.A. Resident said...

Great wrap up Terry.
You should send this to the opposition who at the moment are doing Sweet F.A. about it.

Where are the studies supporting their claims? Thank you for pointing this out. We are fed up with dumb politicians who can't understand basic science.

hah!concerned about what? said...

oh it's just ever so wonderful to see that freedom of choice is slowly disintergrating around us, i wonder if barnett has ever toked a spliff before in his life.

liberals are pathetic and these new policies make me want a mass genocide.

its called "pull your head out of your ass" we've got much bigger fish to fry.

Anonymous said...

Great write up Terry. Keep us updated please.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks for your comments.

They didn't produce any scientific evidence to back their claims because there isn't any. Simple.

Anonymous said...

Well written, there is surprisingly little coverage on this I've found.

It's also a shame that the previous categorization of 2 or fewer non-hydroponic cannabis plants being grown at home counts as a minor offense like owning a small amount. Getting rid of this only gives people more incentive to turn to dealers, and lumps home growers in with commercial drug farms. Also it means drug dealers have more customers, and whereas you need to be/have approval from the homeowner to grow a plant anyone can buy from drug dealers, which of course has implications for children living at home.

Making smoking implements harder to get hold of will turn people towards joints containing tobacco, use home-made bongs out of materials like tin-foil that may give off harmful fumes, and totally get rid of vaporizers as a safer alternative to smoking it.

Let me say however that it is irresponsible to deny the link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Children who were already at risk are especially vulnerable to it, many studies (including rigorous ones done on mice) show that the developing brain is damaged by THC.
You *must* be realistic and clear about this; if you enjoy it privately as adults you don't need to distort the truth about its harmfulness.

Again thanks for the article.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.

There is no link between marijuana and schizophrenia at all. Cannabis can mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia but they disappear as the effects of the cannabis subsides.

That being said, I am a firm believer that cannabis is not a good choice for those under 21. Moderate cannabis use seems to adversely effect only 2 types of people - those with a predisposition to mental health disorders and young people. You will find that this has always been my position.

Thanks again for your input.