Pubdate: Tue, 5 May 1998 Source: The Australian Contact: Website: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/ Author: John Kerin DECRIMINALISING DOPE PRODUCES NO NEW HIGHS A TWO-YEAR national marijuana study has found decriminalisation has not caused any increase in its use in Australia. The findings of the study carried out by the Drug and Alcohol Services Council of South Australia in conjunction with other national research facilities for Australia's health and justice ministers was presented to a meeting in Melbourne yesterday, but the ministers left any action on the report up to individual jurisdictions. The study on the social impacts of cannabis compared marijuana use patterns and legal regimes across Australia. It also compared the experience of those jailed under the more stringent marijuana laws in Western Australia with those who mainly received on the spot fines for carrying or using small amounts of marijuana in South Australia, where the drug has been decriminalised. "The study showed there was no evidence that the introduction of expiation (on the spot fines) for marijuana use has led to any increase in the prevalence or intensity and frequency of marijuana use," one of the researchers associated with the study, DASC clinical policy director Dr Robert Ali said last night. He said although there had been increases across all jurisdictions in the past decade, there was no great difference between jurisdictions where the drug had been decriminalised and where it hadn't. He said the study also found cost savings to the community through keeping minor offenders out of jail. South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory have Australia's most relaxed marijuana laws. In the ACT, police can issue a warning or impose on-the-spot fines for minor offences involving the possession of up to 25g for personal use or for the growing of up to four plants. In South Australia, the limit is 10 plants. ACT Health Minister Michael Moore said he had asked for the trial to be extended to the ACT, where a similar decriminalisation model to that in South Australia operates. The development came as federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge yesterday pledged $3 million to a public awareness campaign to target excessive alcohol use. Dr Wooldridge said the campaign was likely to concentrate on young people aged between 15 and 24.