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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3922..

Mr Pratt: You have not.

MS GALLAGHER: I did. We're not. I have not downgraded positions.

Indigenous youth-alcohol and drug education

MS TUCKER: My question is to Mr Stanhope as the minister responsible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait issues. This morning I was at the launch of the Hanging in, not hanging out DVD, which is, as I think you are probably aware, a peer education program for indigenous youth, dealing with alcohol and drugs. A concern came up this morning and which I wonder whether you can address. I wonder whether you are aware of the situation of their accommodation at the moment-that is, that they have some temporary space at the Griffin Centre-and, if so, whether you intend to pursue other accommodation options for them.

MR STANHOPE: I am not aware of a brief or advice or request that has been made to me in relation to the accommodation needs of that group. Certainly, having regard to your representation and question, I will take an interest in the matter and have myself briefed. I will be more than happy to respond to you. It is not an issue I am aware of at this time.

MS TUCKER: I ask a supplementary question. Also coming out of the meeting this morning was the question of how the government will be communicating with cannabis users in the community the fact that due to changes to the law passed this week some of them will now be liable to criminal prosecution, whereas last week they were not. Bearing in mind that this group may not read the Canberra Times and watch news every night, what is your communication strategy to inform drug users in our community of these changes?

MR STANHOPE: I take the issue you have raised very seriously. I am very conscience that with a change in the SCON arrangement, through the reduction in the number of cannabis plants from five to two, certainly the legal regime in relation to the implications or consequences of now being found to be growing more than two cannabis plants for personal use are very different. We will most certainly ensure that that change in the law and the consequences of that change are widely and broadly communicated. It is a very significant change. I will be seeking and will receive assurances that we engage as broad as possible an education and information campaign in relation to the new regime about personal use of cannabis and the change to the SCON system.

I take absolutely the importance of informing those people within the community that have to date sought and received some comfort from the fact that while the growing or possession of marijuana is a criminal offence, the process of prosecution for that offence under the law is affected by whether the amount of cannabis in one's possession is of a certain quantity or whether one had less than five plants that one was growing for one's personal use. It needs to be remembered, and it is one of the issues we faced in relation to the use and possession of cannabis, that it always has been and remains a criminal offence to possess cannabis in any quantity.

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