Newsbrief: In Australia, Queensland Drug Courts Mostly Send Marijuana Users to Treatment 1/16/04

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Under the headline "First-Time Drug Offenders Avoid Jail," the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported Monday that Queensland's Illicit Drugs Court Diversion Program had helped more than 600 people avoid criminal convictions by getting them into treatment programs. But the real story is that the Australian state's drug court program is sending hundreds of people caught with a joint to drug treatment.

According to statistics from the program, 654 people were diverted into treatment last year by the drug courts. People charged with marijuana offenses constituted two-thirds of them. Some 400 adults and 40 juveniles were sent to drug treatment for pot-smoking -- or in the case of some of the kids, having a bong -- compared to 107 for amphetamines, 56 for ecstasy, 31 for heroin, and five for cocaine.

Drug treatment providers unsurprisingly called the 12-month pilot project successful and urged its expansion. The trial program has been centered on Brisbane, the state's capital and largest city. It should be expanded throughout the state, they told the Courier-Mail.

The diversion program applies only to first-offenders caught with one gram or less of ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, 50 grams of marijuana, or three "hits" of LSD.

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