Pubdate: Mon, 11 Feb 2002
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2002
Author: Jason Baker-Sherman


ONE WAY OF reducing the costliness of cannabis prohibition to society is to 
"decriminalise" cannabis use by issuing instant fines for minor offences, 
thus reducing the burden on the police and courts. Unfortunately, because 
decriminalisation is still a form of prohibition it has nearly all of the 
drawbacks of total prohibition plus a few more of its own creation as is 
evidenced by your article from the Sydney Morning Herald "Relaxed marijuana 
laws exploited" ( ODT , 25.1.02).

Under decriminalisation, cannabis users are still punished and drug-tested, 
they and their houses are still searched, and any cannabis and/or equipment 
found is still confiscated. Recreational users still buy cannabis of 
unknown quality from an unregulated black market, and the black market 
gains access to that population. Furthermore, because of the vagaries of 
South Australia's decriminalisation laws, the supply of cannabis 
"relocated" from "Mr Big" to "Mr and Mrs Smalls" who in turn faced an 
increased risk of violent home invasion. Cultivators for personal use were 
fined while growing their plants but became criminals in terms of 
possession when they harvested them.

The laws themselves also became a "political football" because they are 
easily changed to suit each government's whim. It is significant that the 
conservative Liberal government did not reinstate total prohibition but 
simply reduced decriminalisation to the bare minimum of one plant grown 
outdoors. Hopefully, our own Government will view South Australia's 
decriminalisation folly as a precautionary tale, and instead make 
meaningful law changes that tolerate cannabis use by adults and regulate 
the cannabis supply through suitable outlets thereby undermining the black 

Jason Baker-Sherman

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