Newsbrief: West Australia Quietly Shifts From Drug Arrests to Diversion 7/30/04

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The government of the Australian state of West Australia has quietly begun allowing people caught with personal amounts of drugs to avoid arrest and prosecution by agreeing to undergo counseling instead, the newspaper the West Australian reported Monday. The policy has been in effect since January, the newspaper said, but was never publicly announced.

Under the change, people caught with up to half a gram of amphetamine or heroin or up to two ecstasy tablets can avoid court by going to counseling. They must also admit to their crime, be first-time offenders, and not have been involved in other crimes to be considered for diversion from the criminal justice system to the health system.

The program is an extension of an experimental program begun in December 2000 that operated in Perth, Geraldton, and Mirrabooka. The trial ended last year, and the diversion program became official policy state-wide on January 1. No legislative action was required, the West Australian reported.

The program does not apply to marijuana. Under a new West Australia law that took effect in March, people caught with small amounts of pot or growing fewer than three plants must either pay a fine or attend an education session (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/239/westernaustralia.shtml).

So far, the program is small. Since January 1, only 32 people caught with drugs have been diverted under the program. Of those, 19 completed counseling. All of them were caught with amphetamines or ecstasy.

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Issue #348, 7/30/04 Editorial: Too Many Questions | An All-Time High: Nearly 7 Million Behind Bars or on Probation or Parole | MPP, ACLU Sue Nevada to Gain Ballot Access for Marijuana Initiative | DRCNet Book Review: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War," edited by Sheriff Bill Masters (Accurate Press, $14.95 PB) | Newsbrief: British Drug Panel Considering Anti-Drug Vaccinations for Schoolchildren | Newsbrief: Border Guard Charged in Beating of Suspected Marijuana Smuggler | Newsbrief: Justice Department Orders Libraries to Return Asset Forfeiture Documents | Newsbrief: Despite High Court Ruling, Old Drug Conviction Keeps Man from His Kids | Newsbrief: West Australia Quietly Shifts From Drug Arrests to Diversion | Newsbrief: British Marijuana Arrests Plummet Following Legal Reclassification | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | This Week in History | Media Scan: Canada, Canada, Canada, Kerry | The Reformer's Calendar
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