Australians are world renowned for the relaxed “she’ll be right attitude”. And, Australia is famous for its worldwide tourist marketing campaigns based on the Aussies’ love of beer, barbecues and thongs. It is hardly surprising they like a toke as well. Over the last decade, Australians have progressively changed their attitude to legalising cannabis use in Australia.
Aussies are relaxing their attitude to the legalisation of cannabis as recent research shows. Early in 2015, Roy Morgan Research released its latest research on Aussie’s attitudes to this hotly contested topic. They asked Aussies aged 14 upwards – “In your opinion should the smoking of marijuana be made legal – or remain illegal?” The results showed support for legalising marijuana rose to 31.8% in 2014 from 26.8% in 2004. Most support came from the 18 – 24 age group with 35.7% supporting its legalisation. Interestingly, those aged over 65 had a growth rate of almost 50% from 16.9% in 2004 to 25.5% most recently. This age group had the largest overall increase for legalisation of cannabis.
Aussie’s are world famous for their relaxed attitudes to most things, and smoking pot tends to be one of them though it is a criminal offence in most states. Decriminalisation for the possession of small amounts of pot still carries a civil penalty. Only in three states in Australia is being caught with small amounts of cannabis decriminalised, but there are still consequences:
- South Australia has always been progressive in these sorts of social issues and was the first to decriminalise cannabis possession for small amounts in 1987. For possessing up to 20 gm of hash, an outdoor grown plant, 100 gm of cannabis or equipment for smoking, you can receive a fine from between $50 to $150 with 60 days to pay.
- Australian Capital Territory followed suit in 1993 when it brought in a civil penalty system for possession of small amounts of cannabis. For possessing up 25 gm of marijuana or two outdoor grown plants, you receive a fine of $200 with 60 days to pay. You can choose to attend a drug treatment program instead of paying the fine.
- Northern Territory decriminalised cannabis possession in 1996. For adults possessing up to 50 gm of cannabis, two outdoor grown plants, 10 gm of marijuana seeds or hash, or 1 gm of hash oil. you receive a fine of $200 with 28 days to pay.
In all other states it is illegal to be caught in possession of cannabis, but police may use discretionary powers to give a caution and all states have cannabis drug diversion programs. So what happens where:
- Victorian police can give someone caught with up to 50 gm of cannabis a caution and offer attendance in a cannabis education program. You are only allowed two warnings before being charged.
- Queensland police must offer a place in a diversion program to people found in possession of up to 50 gm of marijuana. This is mandatory, and this is the only state that it is mandatory. In all other states police can use their discretion. People are allowed only one chance in Queensland, so if caught again you will be charged.
- New South Wales police can caution anyone caught in possession of up to 15 gm of cannabis, and give out information related to the harm of cannabis use. You are only allowed two cautions under the law.
- Tasmanian police can give up to three cautions (within a 10-year period) to people found in possession of up to 50 gm. First offence, you receive drug-related information and a referral. Second offence, you must attend an intervention. Third offence, you are sent for assessment, and have to attend an intervention or treatment program.
- West Australian police can issue a notice to attend a cannabis intervention program if found in possession of up to 10 gm of cannabis or a tool used for smoking for a first offence. You have 28 days to attend the program or you will be charged with a criminal offence. Caught growing pot in WA will get you a criminal conviction. WA has a chequered history with its cannabis legislation. It implemented a civil penalty system in 2004 for possession of small amounts of cannabis, but a change of government in 2008 overturned this legislation.
Regardless of the legislation from state-to-state in Australia, Australians sits seventh in the world with around 12% of the adult population using recreational cannabis according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Australia’s Federal Government has heard its people call and changed legislation for the use of medical cannabis in 2016. The question the whole country may be sitting waiting for is will it legalise recreational cannabis use as well.