Pubdate: Thu, 23 Aug 2001
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 News Limited
Author: John Ferguson, state politics reporter
Bookmark: (items about Australia)


A MAJOR report backing marijuana decriminalisation was suppressed
despite a specific requirement that it be made public.

The report to a powerful State Parliament committee backed
decriminalisation, smaller fines for personal use and allowing as many
as 10 plants to be grown by smokers.

But the State Government yesterday distanced itself from the report,
which was handed to the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee shortly
before Steve Bracks seized power.

Premier Bracks claimed no Government members had seen it. But the
Herald Sun understands some Labor MPs were given it.

Health Minister John Thwaites yesterday also said he had never seen
the report, one of the biggest done on the subject in Victoria.

He asked the Herald Sun to provide him with a copy. Mr Thwaites said:
"I haven't seen it. Have you got a copy?"

The 240-page report by the highly respected National Centre for
Research into the Prevention of Drug Abuse was commissioned on
condition it be made public.

"The primary purpose of the project for which this consultancy is
being sought is

to produce a high-quality discussion paper for broad public
distribution, which stimulates public debate concerning the arguments
surrounding cannabis control," the parliamentary committee said in the
tender document.

The Herald Sun first became aware of the report's existence two years
ago, when most Labor MPs favoured marijuana decriminalisation. It
remains ALP policy.

Mr Bracks and Mr Thwaites have since distanced the Government from
decriminalisation but have vowed to push ahead with heroin injecting

Mr Thwaites accused the Herald Sun of a "huge beat-up", wrongly
indicating the National Centre for Research into the Prevention of
Drug Abuse report had favoured legalisation of marijuana.

What the report backed was decriminalisation, making penalties for
repeated personal use civil rather than criminal penalties.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake