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Australia: West Australia Premier Vows to Roll Back Marijuana Reforms, Reenergize Drug War

Leading a Liberal-National Party coalition government, West Australia Premier Colin Barnett is introducing legislation this week to roll back reforms to the state's marijuana laws. Passed by an earlier Labor government in 2003, the changes decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot and allowed for the growing of up to two plants without fear of arrest and prosecution. In a media statement Sunday and another one Monday, the "tough on crime" premier gave clear notice he was cracking down on pot and other drug offenders, and was willing to extend police powers to do so. He said he would introduce legislation to repeal the state's Cannabis Control Act of 2003 and to amend the 1981 Misuse of Drugs and Youthful Offender Act. "The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation," Barnett said. "Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs," he maintained, treating highly controversial and discredited claims as if they were fact. According to Premier Barnett, his legislation will: • Prosecute those in possession of more than 10g of cannabis • See subsequent offences for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences. • Prosecute people for cultivating even one or two cannabis plants. • Extend the ban the sale of pot-smoking implements to minors to include everyone. • Increase the fine for selling smoking implements to $5,000 for sale to adults and $10,000 for sale to minors. Corporate entities could be fined up to five times those amounts. Barnett also wants to "reform" the Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme (CIN), or ticketing and fines for decriminalized amounts by replacing it with a Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS) that would require anyone ticketed to attend "drug education" classes. It would also mandate that anyone who failed to pay his fine would be prosecuted, something that has not been the case under the current law. Barnett's scheme would also allow for the criminal prosecution for marijuana possession of juveniles after two decrim tickets and adults after one. The current law has no such measures. There's more to come, Barnett promised. "The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply," he said. "Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offences for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants. The Government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits." But, he said Monday, he's going to start by soon introducing legislation to allow police to stop and search anyone without probable cause. The police commissioner would designate certain "stop and search" zones with advance public notice, especially in entertainment areas. "Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Barnett said. "It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane."
Perth, WA

Will Banning Blunts Reduce Marijuana Use?

No, of course not, but let me introduce you to some people who actually believe it will:

Council Bans Sale of Single Cigars in Bid to Curb Youths' Marijuana Use

The Prince George's County Council adopted one of the nation's most sweeping restrictions on the sale of cigars yesterday, an effort to curb a growing trend among urban youths of using hollowed-out cigars to smoke marijuana.

The council voted 8 to 1 to ban the sale of single cigars, requiring stores to sell them in packages of at least five. The new law will also make it easier to charge someone possessing a cigar with a drug paraphernalia offense…[Washington Post]

How much easier? I’d like to know more. Why would you charge someone with a drug offense for possessing cigars? If they have drugs, you can charge them for that. This is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a stupid idea when you’re trying to save the children:

Sylvia Quinton, who works with the Suitland-based Substance Abuse Treatment Education Prevention Network, said use of short fat cigars, often called blunts, to smoke marijuana has "become embedded in youth culture." Blunts make frequent cameos in rap music and movies.

She said the new law cannot stamp out the glorification of blunts, but raising the price might discourage some youths.

Are you crazy? If they can afford marijuana, they will find a way to smoke it. No one’s gonna give up on smoking a $10 bag because they couldn’t get a blunt for a buck. Not only will this plan fail overall, it will never work even one time on anybody, ever. They will eat their stash raw before surrendering to you.

Not to mention the glaring and hysterical fact that you can still buy boxes of blunts and get high five times, while saving some change. This is nothing but a much-needed lesson in economics for people who constantly waste weed by rolling it up in big slimy stinking blunt papers that spill herb into your mouth and make you smell like schwag for a day and a half.

The fact that we’re even talking about this is an enormous exhibit in the embarrassing failure of our marijuana laws.

Paraphernalia: No More Felony Charges For Dirty Pipes or Syringes in Cleveland

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced Monday that people in Cleveland caught with pipes or syringes containing drug residues will no longer be charged with felonies. Under current practice in Cleveland, people caught with dirty paraphernalia are charged with felony drug possession.

More than 6,000 people were arrested on felony drug charges every year in the city. The mayor said he expected the change to reduce that number by from 1,200 to 1,500.

Under Jackson's proposal, it would take three dirty needle arrests to earn a felony drug possession charge. A first drug paraphernalia arrest would be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor and a second as a first-degree misdemeanor. People charged with either of those offenses could be diverted to Cleveland's drug court. A third offense would be sent to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and treated as a drug possession felony.

Jackson portrayed the measure as aimed at getting drug users into treatment without saddling them with a felony record as well as helping to improve the quality of life in the city. "If people have a couple chances, they better take advantage of it," the mayor said. "This is about helping people and stopping the behavior that is destroying our neighborhoods," he added.

Cleveland is the only large city in Ohio that routinely charges paraphernalia cases as felonies. Community activists there have argued for years that since similar cases in the suburbs are treated as misdemeanors, Cleveland residents have been treated unfairly.

But although tensions about racial disparity in Cleveland's drug war are simmering -- the Plain Dealer did a recent series on disparities in felony drug prosecutions -- Mayor Jackson attempted to tamp them down. Drug users come from all communities, he said, and suburban users would be treated just like inner city ones. "It's not a race issue," he said. "Everybody will be treated the same."

Well, that's progress, we suppose.

Australia: Grow Lights Now Illegal in South Australia

The state government of South Australia has made the possession of lights, reflectors, and associated equipment that can be used for growing marijuana a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison. Also included in the list of proscribed horticultural items are carbon filters, evaporators, heating tools, stirrers, funnels, and flasks. Under the new statute, people caught in possession of such items will have to prove they have a legitimate reason for having them or face criminal penalties.
grow-op with lights (from, via Wikimedia)
The move is the latest effort by the state government to crack down on marijuana cultivation there. It also reflects the peculiar Australian obsession with "hydroponic" marijuana, which in the land Down Under is widely considered to be somehow different and more dangerous than marijuana grown by other means.

"These are the tools of the lucrative but deadly drug trade," said state Attorney General Michael Atkinson in remarks reported by Adelaide Now. "They're used in sophisticated set-ups and two-bit backyard operations alike.
This government will prosecute anyone who has these illegal drug-making devices -- unless they can give a good explanation."

Atkinson scoffed at the notion anyone would be using such equipment for anything other than growing pot. "With the amount of hydroponic equipment being sold, you would think South Australia was the hydroponic tomato capital of Australia," he said. "Alas, we do not produce as many hydroponic tomatoes as hydroponic cannabis."

Atkinson said banning such equipment was the best way to attack the drug trade, which he characterized as dominated by biker gangs. "It's no secret that those who have these items aren't planning to bake biscuits for the Girl Guides," he said. The move will "make a big dent" against pot growing, he promised.

Middle East: Israel to Ban Bong Sales?

Israel may be about to ban bong sales. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Knesset Law, Constitution, and Justice Committee Sunday approved a measure that bans the sale of bongs, or water pipes often used to smoke marijuana.
The proposed law would prohibit the sale and import of any drug paraphernalia, but only mentions bongs by name. Violators of the bong law would face up to five years in prison, but the committee struck a provision of the law that prohibited the possession of bongs for personal use.

The law is mainly aimed at suppressing the sale of bongs in stores close to schools. In an explanation attached to the bill, the committee said that "the sale and import of bongs has dealt a blow to the country. Smoking devices are sold in kiosks and grocery stores adjacent to schools and other places frequented by young people, and are imported into Israel in large quantities."

Israel already has a tough paraphernalia law with penalties of up to 20 years in prison. But Israeli courts have repeatedly ruled that the object in question must contain drug traces for the charge to stick, thus making it impossible to prosecute sellers or importers.

It's not a done deal yet. The proposed law awaits second and third readings before the whole Knesset.

Australia: South Australia Bans Bongs

The Labor government of South Australia has banned bongs as part of a bill that makes possession of drug paraphernalia a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a $50,000 fine. In addition to bongs, the law covers such implements as hookahs, "cocaine kits," and glass pipes used to smoke methamphetamine and crack cocaine.
The measure won final passage in the South Australian parliament on April 10. The government of Premier Mike Rann was quick to embrace it.

"The Rann Labor government has banned the bong," crowed state Attorney General Michael Atkinson in remarks reported by the Adelaide Advertiser. "Commercial outlets retailing drug paraphernalia in South Australia will now either have to shut up shop, or find another line of business," he said, pointing out that one shop had already closed.

The new legislation closes what drug warriors saw as a loophole in state law. Previously, courts had to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person in possession of the item planned to use it for illegal purposes. Now, possession in itself becomes the basis for a guilty verdict.

"To my knowledge just a handful of cases have been brought against commercial outlets selling drug paraphernalia because of the difficulty of proving that the seller intended the equipment be used in connection with preparing or consuming an illicit drug," Atkinson said.

The bill was the brainchild of Member of the Legislative Council Ann Bressington, an alcohol and drug counselor who lost a child to a drug overdose in 1998, and sits on the board of Drug Free Australia and is a member of the Australian National Council of Drugs (ANCD), peak advisory body to the prime minister's office.

But while the state government portrayed the legislation as a blow against drug use, one local drug expert, pharmacology associate professor Rodney Irvine, told the Advertiser users will seek other ways to inhale smoke and that could be more dangerous. "When you close one loophole another one emerges, a different pattern of use emerges," he said.

"I would say that there's a possibility those alternative homemade ones will have some problems," Irvine added, suggesting that using a water pipe or bong could be less harmful than smoking a joint or pipe. "Intuitively, I would say that smoking anything through a water pipe is a better option than smoking it in a joint or a spliff," he said. "If you're smoking tobacco through a water pipe you've got cooler smoke. If there's cooler smoke, there are less volatile substances, therefore less tar."

Banning Cylindrical Objects Won't Stop People from Smoking Crack

You know those little roses that come in glass tubes? You can buy them at gas stations for a buck or two and then use them however you see fit. And, as luck would have it, some folks like to put crack in them and smoke it. It should therefore come as no surprise to find people calling for a ban on these so-called "love roses."

…Reverend Michael Latham, the leader of the local NAACP Chapter, says these "love roses" are littering our streets and damaging our community.

Rev. Michael Latham: "Take it out. Don't sell it. And, understand it's being used to for smoking crack cocaine. I think Fort Wayne has a real serious crack problem."

Latham is calling for a boycott of at least three gas stations in Fort Wayne after calling the owners to complain.

"love roses" on the evening news, for all the wrong reasons
No word yet on whether Latham plans to target larger crack paraphernalia outlets such as Home Depot™, or the not-so-subtly named Container Store™, which sells almost nothing that couldn't be used to consume or transport narcotics. Last time I went there, they didn’t even card me to make sure I'm over eighteen!

Inevitably, when the citizens of Ft. Wayne, Indiana endeavor to misdirect their concerns over the local drug problem, they've got a powerful ally in their congressman, drug war hall-of-shamer Mark Souder.

Mark Souder/Congressman, 3rd District: "I support a boycott. That's voluntary consumer decision."

Did Mark Souder just use the term "voluntary consumer decision"? Lucky me, I'd have bet anyone anything that we'd never hear those words leave his lips given his career-long commitment to jailing certain consumers for the voluntary decisions they make. Souder then proceeds to celebrate his sudden affinity for consumer choice by proposing a new law banning small containers:

Co-Chair of the House Drug Policy Caucus, Souder thinks Latham's plan is a good one. The Congressman hopes to go one step further in the near future with a law banning hidden drug compartments, like these.

Mark Souder/Congressman, 3rd District: "I believe when something is used solely for illegal purposes, it should be illegal."

Even if "love roses" were literally never used for anything other than smoking crack, their prohibition would still accomplish nothing absent the simultaneous prohibition of other popular crack accessories such as soda cans, cigarettes, and radio antennas. But I also don't see why these pretty little roses couldn't sometimes be used just to brighten someone's day.

Remind me to send Mark Souder a dozen "love roses" for Valentine's Day.

United States

Australia: South Australia Wants to Ban Marijuana Grow Recipes, Equipment

South Australia Attorney General Michael Atkinson Tuesday introduced legislation to the state parliament that would ban drug-making recipes and the possession of equipment that could be used to produce drugs without a reasonable excuse. The measure is aimed primarily at marijuana growers.

In remarks reported by The Age, Atkinson said people would have to prove why they have equipment used in the hydroponic cultivation of marijuana or face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"We want to make it very hard for drug cultivators and manufacturers in South Australia," he told reporters. "We think they're a pest, they're a nuisance, they're noxious and that we ought to make their lives so unbearable they might even go to another jurisdiction."

Atkinson said he isn't sure yet which items will be proscribed, but he would work with police to identify items used in hydroponic marijuana cultivation and other illicit drug laboratories. Atkinson did not say how the proposed law would be implemented.

Australia: "Super Dope" Marijuana Scare Prompts Threats to Ban Bongs

An annual drug report that mentions the possibility that Vietnamese Australians have visited Canada to learn marijuana cultivation techniques has led to a new outbreak of Reefer Madness Down Under, as well as threats from the national and New South Wales government that they intend to ban bongs and other marijuana-smoking devices.
soon to be banned in Australia?
"Police fear a new form of incredibly potent cannabis is destined to hit Australia," wrote the Herald Sun in breathless prose. "Vietnamese criminal gangs in Canada have developed a sophisticated method of growing the plant indoors all year round. It greatly increases both the yield and potency of the cannabis and drastically cuts back the growing time for each crop," the newspaper reported in article picked up by other Australian media outlets.

"The latest criminal intelligence suggests Australian-based Vietnamese drug dealers have traveled to Canada to learn how to cultivate this new brand of highly addictive cannabis," the Herald Sun continued. "They are expected to use the knowledge to grow and sell it in Australia. This new cannabis threat was revealed yesterday in the Australian Crime Commission's annual Illicit Drug Data Report."
All Headline News more concisely but equally trashily warned that "a new strand of marijuana could be landing on Australian soil which is stronger, supposed more addictive and easier to grow."

The Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Report 2005-2006, released this month, was not nearly as dramatic. In its section on cannabis, on which the dire media accounts were based, the report noted:

The majority of cannabis consumed in Australia is domestically produced, with cultivation prolific in all states and territories. While large outdoor bush plots, ranging in size from one to tens of thousands of plants, remain common in some states and territories, the most commonly detected method of cultivating cannabis is through the use of hydroponics (or other enhanced indoor cultivation methods). These are usually detected within residential premises. Although the number of plants is typically lower for hydroponic cultivation, growing cannabis hydroponically means it can be grown all year round and produces a higher yield of 'head' or 'buds' in a shorter period of time.

These enhanced indoor cultivation methods have been refined by Vietnamese criminal groups in Canada to yield high potency cannabis (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2002). There are indications that some Vietnamese Australians have traveled to Canada to further their cultivation knowledge and skills. However, it is important to note that no single criminal group dominates cannabis cultivation or supply in Australia.

What both the commission and the newspapers are talking about is nothing more than "BC Bud," or, if grown in the US or Australia "kind bud," or high-THC content marijuana being grown indoors under high-power lights. Kind bud has long been grown Down Under by Australian pot connoisseurs, and the use of hydroponic or other indoor growing systems is also nothing new. In fact, Australia appears to be unique in its peculiar delusion that hydroponic marijuana is somehow different and more dangerous.

Not allowing themselves to be detoured by the facts, Australian politicians are jumping into the fray with proposals to fight the hydro menace by banning pot pipes. According to All Headline News, the New South Wales state government is considering such proposal.

And Radio Australia reported that the national government will consider such a paraphernalia ban in December. Federal Minister Christopher Pyne made the announcement at a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy in Adelaide Saturday. He said the government would also look at how to regulate the advertising of paraphernalia.

The fact that pipes can also be used to smoke tobacco should be no hindrance to a crackdown, he said. "Hiding behind the idea that some of these products might be used for legitimate products [and] legitimate practices flies in the face of common sense," Pyne said. "I think the mums and dads of Australia expect us to take firm action."

Bongs May Be Banned As New Strain Of Marijuana Enters The Country


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