Pubdate: Sat, 04 Feb 2006
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2006 The Australian
Author: Imre Salusinszky and Tom Richardson
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


THE NSW Government has introduced Australia's first laws specifically
targeting the cultivation of hydroponically grown cannabis.

The new laws include 10-year jail sentences for people growing as few
as five indoor plants, and give police the same powers to raid
cannabis houses as they currently possess for premises where they
believe heroin and amphetamines are being sold.

Hydroponically grown cannabis is five to seven times as powerful as
normal cannabis.

A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus said yesterday the new
laws would be the first in Australia to impose specific penalties for
the cultivation of cannabis by methods that enhance the yield and the

NSW Premier Morris Iemma linked the growing popularity of hydroponic
cannabis to the prevalence of mental illnesses including depression
and schizophrenia.

"It is not a harmless drug," he said. "If we are to improve mental
health in our community it is essential that we shut down these indoor
cannabis factories and punish severely the criminals behind them."

The Government will also establish a task force to investigate
regulating the sale and supply of hydroponic growing equipment.

The tougher laws contrasted yesterday with calls from the South
Australian Democrats for a relaxation of drug laws, claiming a
"dangerous prohibitionist shift" in the state would "alienate and
criminalise a large section of society".

State leader Sandra Kanck said several "politicians and media
commentators are getting on the bandwagon, saying we need to
recriminalise the personal use of marijuana".

"That would make around 476,000 South Australians - 40 per cent of the
population - retrospective criminals," she said. About 75,000 people
in the state would break the law each week if marijuana was
criminalised, she said.

"We need to recognise that drugs are used, and have appropriate
policies to deal with that ... prohibition didn't work in America in
the 1920s, and it won't work now," Ms Kanck said. 
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