up by the Victorian Government and was responsible for investigating the Marijuana issue. What the law says is, In Victoria the penalties imposed by the courts for possession of small amounts of Cannabis – less than 50 grams, are relatively minor.1 Although the Drugs,Poisons and Controlled Substances Act prohibits possession of any amount of cannabis, court routinely place first offenders found guilty of possession of smaller amounts on a one-year good behaviour bond. If the offender is not convicted of another offence during this period no conviction is recorded.2 The average fine imposed by the Magistrates Courts for possessing less than 50 grams of cannabis in 1993 was $178. The maximum fine is $500.3 For larger amounts, the penalties rise rapidly. Possession of up to 250 grams can bring a fine of $2,000 and/or prison for up to a year. If the court believes the offender was involved in trafficking, the maximum penalty is $20,000 and up to five years jail. For amounts in commercial quantities- above 100 kilograms- a fine of up to $250,000 and a jail term of up to 25 years con be imposed.4
From the councils findings they were able to make a number of recommendations. The recommended changes made by the Drug Advisory Council were: Softer penalties other illicit drugs, trafficking to remain severe, Anti- drug education in schools, Individuals permitted to grow up to 5 plants and possess 25 grams of Marijuana, Youth service set up to help young addicts rehabilitate, Agency to coordinate anti drug services, Upgrade courts and prison facilities, Funding to expand rehabilitation, Police to have a policy, understood by all members of harm minimisation. Of the recommendations made only a small number were fixed on marijuana, it had been the media who had broadcasted and fixed on marijuana.
The laws that encircle the usage of Marijuana were understood by the Victorian Government to be inadequate. The Drug Advisory Council considered that the constraints on drugs had failed to weaken the manufacture, trafficking and the habit of using drugs. They estimate the only way to lessen or eliminate the dilemma, is to take the profit out of the market. Before being capable to propose any alternatives to the present law, details on the drug atmosphere was essential, to support their recommendation on.
From community polls and household surveys which were performed it was established that 33% of Australians supported the legalisation of marijuana. The Drug Advisory Council then needed to determine the strength of the present laws regarding marijuana. From their research they discovered proof to indicate that in a rural Police jurisdiction that over 90% of work was drug associated while 65% of this is associated to marijuana. The current legislative dealings have not reduced the use of marijuana and maintains to be the third most widely used psychoactive drug. From these findings the Drug Advisory Council had enough evidence to support their recommendations on.
The subject of decriminalising marijuana make many mixed and undecided attitudes which caused the conflict in opinions towards the proposed change in the law. A spokesman from the Royal Childrens Hospital Centre for Adolescent Health, said the centre was concerned about the message decriminalisation of marijuana would send to young people. Dr Carr-Gregg said children needed to grow up knowing where the boundaries were.5
Also he believed that the regular use of cannabis by young people could impact on their health and development. Some problems such as memory loss, psychosis hallucinations and asthma could be possibly linked to the use of marijuana.6 Well Dr Carr-Gregg suggests that regular use of marijuana could have harmful effects on young people, While Dr Nick Crofts, deputy director of the Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research and convener of the Victorian Drug Law Reform Group, argued for decriminalisation. He wrote: Marijuana was the social drug of the 70s and entirely in tune with the Age of Aquarius. Its use has become a fact of life for many who were young then and are now influential middle- class citizens. It is widely used and relatively freely available. The main purpose of its illegality these days is for police to add it to a list of changes against someone they are worried about. Magistrates often apply small fines. Education is important because of its illegality. Its criminalisation serves no purpose; so lets decriminalise it.7
Dr Nick Crofts suggested the police are making more drug users by not decriminalising it and Police could be doing something else instead of chasing marijuana users.
While Police Chief Mr Neil Comrie rejected the criticism of police priorities. He said that to fight the drug menace effectively, it was necessary for police to tackle the problem at the street level. Mr Comrie favoured some structural reforms, but not to the point of creating a law enforcement nightmare by softening laws against the possession or use of marijuana.8 The reality is that marijuana users already present a problem concerning driving a vehicle, and that to date it had been impossible to invent a breath test to detect marijuana was a major matter of Mr Comries.
There were countless groups which tried to sway a change in the present law. Two organisation which played important roles in persuading the change were the media and the Drug Advisory Council. Both of these organisations had methods which were alike for which they tried to sway public beliefs towards there own opinions. The medias role focused on the marijuana recommendations.
Endless reporting of the issue by means of hot lines being set up and also letters to the editor. The hot lines were set up to show the opinions of the public.
The medias comprehensive reporting permitted the public to recognise what was being put forward and whether it was good are bad to themselves or the community. Both the major newspapers (eg The Age, Herald-Sun.) had leading stories and editorials based on the issue. The Drug Advisory Council also tried to influenced a change in the law. The Council announced submissions from the community and experts in there specific fields and associated fields.
It registered approximately 200 individuals and only 150 from organizations. Its investigation into the support of marijuana had been a key ingredient as the recommendations was required to support to persuade a change. The Drug Advisory Council held discussions trying to gather details and ideas concerning the recommendations.
Individuals had also tried to campaign for a change of the law. Numerous petitions were given to parliament granting the public to expression there suggestions.
Against the proposed law change are Professor Glenn Bowes and Dr John Toumbourou from the Centre for Adolescent Health. They claim that research has been documented showing association in youth involvement in the use of legal drugs leading to the use of illicit drugs9 . They said that if marijuana were decriminalised then wider social patterns of use would encourage new users and that they could then go onto harder drugs.10Dr Crofts view conflicts with Professor Bowes and Dr Toumbourous because one believes the drug being illegal serves no purpose and the others are saying it does. Crofts is saying because the drug is so easy to get it may as well be decriminalised while Bowes and Toumbourou say the law is there for a reason.
They claim the law needs to stay to prevent people from moving from marijuana to much harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. The argument brought forward by Bowes and Toumbourou is one of the biggest arguments against decriminalising marijuana. There is evidence to support their claim that marijuana lead to harder drugs like heroin and that if it was legalised then more people may be led to harder drugs.The long-term effects of marijuana use like the development of psychosis and schizophrenia is also a major concern and a good argument for why the proposed change in law shouldn’t go ahead. The main argument in favour of the proposed change is how people wouldn’t receive a criminal record if caught in possession or using the drug and also the extra time police would have to concentrate on more serious crimes and drug traffickers.
The call to change in the law from the public, along with politicians, doctors and law enforces about the use of marijuana was brought about because of the developing use of the substance. Research conducted in and around Queensland by the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission show that the number of people who use or have tried marijuana has risen significantly. The results of the eight hundred and fifty people surveyed showed that forty percent of men and twenty eight percent of women have tried the drug at least once and believed the drug didn’t have a adverse effect. Also only ten percent said they believed people should be jailed because of marijuana offences.11The results of these surveys show how society has changed over the past five years. Five years ago a person who supported cannabis law reform were seen as disrespectable.12
Now if you are against the decriminalisation you are contracting down to a fundamentalist group. The change in peoples attitudes is because they are seeing the harmful effects the drug might have on them aren’t as bad as the social cost the drug being illegal has caused.13
The Victorian Government was confronted with countless needs from several organizations and individuals. A lot of these planned changes were disregarded while there were changes that the Government thought could be accomplished.
The recommendations that marijuana be decriminalized was refused by the state government. The government presumed that not sufficient was known about the effects of such a change. It was viewed that such a change, that community was not prepared for, and it was believed that Victoria would become the drug capital of Australia ( Vertical file.)
and this was a major concept. The answer is, schools to have drug education in there curriculum was accepted by the government. Education was thought to be a good path to take to combat the issue of the use of marijuana. The government also recognized that an attack with importance of treatment rather than punishment may be a good start. This meant first time drug offenders be given a bond and undergo compulsory education instead of issuing fines without rehabilitation.14
The link between criminal offenses and drug usages is a critical dilemma. The fact that people perform crimes to support their habits is a problem that community has to face.
To legalise marijuana would then grant these people to have a better life and use marijuana without the hassle of being caught in possession of marijuana.
The government reacted both abruptly and practically to the need for a change in the relating to marijuana. The fact that they set up the The Drug Advisory Council and laid out terms of suggestion for them to comply to. Letting people have there say by having submissions, had shown how open the opinion was. The government was very keen to find out the views of the public. Dedicating a whole day of parliament and allowing the The Drug Advisory Council head chief, Professor Pennington where open debate was used to show the Keenness of the government to find and allow opinions to be expressed.15
The advantages that were to gained in the legal network were quite enormous.
Letting Police officers deal with more unpleasant crimes like murder and rape, instead of the drug matters, this would also advantage the legal system. The decriminalization of marijuana also had a negative expression which associated with the Victorian Police.
The Courts could use the time that it spends on cases involving drugs could do something else, more pressing subject matter. The individual would be greatly influence by the introduction of the proposed law. The fact that smoking and harvesting marijuana would become legal and users will not be prosecuted and penalties will be waved. Others will find it hard to accept.
Total word – 1998.