Pubdate: Mon, 22 Mar 2004
Source: Australian Associated Press (Australia Wire)
Copyright: 2004 Australian Associated Press


SOFT new cannabis laws in Western Australia would place young people
at risk of serious physical and mental health problems, the state
opposition said yesterday.

 From today, possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis and the
cultivation of up to two plants will be decriminalised, attracting a
fine or education session.

Opposition Leader Colin Barnett said it was "irresponsible in the
extreme" to soften penalties for using and growing the drug in the
face of mounting evidence of its dangers.

"There is clear scientific evidence that cannabis use is linked with
depression and anxiety in youths and an increased risk of psychotic
disorders such as paranoia, manic depression and schizophrenia," Mr
Barnett said.

"Physical health impacts include a higher risk of throat, lung, mouth
and tongue cancer, reproductive problems and possible impaired
educational development in adolescents."

The opposition leader said a 1992 report carried out by the US Drug
Enforcement Administration showed one standard, outdoor plant could
produce 448g of cannabis after 120 days, while two plants, harvested
three times a year, could yield more than 2.5kg of cannabis.

"Under Labor's legislation the possession of those two plants will
attract no greater penalty than a fine of up to $200," he said.

"To make matters worse the legislation allows for an unlimited number
of cautions to be issued for possession and cultivation and only an
education session for repeat offenders.

"Such a soft approach to law enforcement for the abuse of an illicit
drug is a recipe for disaster and it is our children and their
families who will pay."

Mr Barnett said the softening of WA's cannabis laws would only benefit
those who "profit from the misery of drug abuse". 
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