(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
August 20, 1998, West Australia, Australia: Government officials announced last week that first time marijuana users will no longer face criminal charges for possessing less than 50 grams of the drug. West Australia is the fifth state to enact marijuana decriminalization in recent years.
Police Commissioner Bob Falconer said that the new policy will take effect October 1 on a trial basis in the Mirrabooka and Bunbury police districts. If the trial proves successful, leaders will extend the measure statewide.
"Western Australia's experimental marijuana policy is similar to the laws of ten U.S. states where marijuana users face a civil 'violation' rather than criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of the drug," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said. "It is encouraging to see other regions around the globe adopt these reforms. It is our hope that West Australian political leaders will adopt this policy statewide and not just in select regions."
Under the new system, individuals will receive a warning for possessing marijuana as long as they attend a lecture on the potential misuse of the drug. "It's not synonymous with being tough on drugs to crunch people for small quantities of cannabis when it's essentially about an education issue," Falconer said. He and other law enforcement officials lobbied the government for the policy change, arguing that valuable police and judicial resources were being wasted prosecuting marijuana smokers.
Other Australian states to recently adopt a marijuana "caution" system are the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT), the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Victoria. This spring, the Drug and Alcohol Council of South Australia concluded a two year national study finding that the decriminalization of marijuana does not lead to increased use.
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano of NORML, (202) 483-5500.