Page 1174 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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ameliorate the effect of the criminal law on young people who do, as part of their lifestyle, use marijuana.

I think that it is difficult. I think that one could ask—it is a classic question: how long is a piece of string?—whether, having determined to reduce the number of plants that would be available before the scheme operated that allowed, essentially, an on-the-spot fine as opposed to having to appear in court, we should have reduced it from five to four, from five to three, from five to two or, to be consistent with Western Australia, five to one. These are matters for judgment. It is very difficult.

There are only three jurisdictions in Australia with this scheme—the ACT, South Australia and Western Australia. South Australia, I understand, has a two-plant limit. Western Australia has a one-plant limit. We had a five-plant limit and we have now reduced it to two plants; so we are, essentially, consistent with those other jurisdictions.

It may be that, as a result of that, there will be now some people who are growing five plants and are operating within the context of the scheme and the framework that we sought to achieve—growing just for personal use; not using hydroponics; not selling; not supplying; not smoking more than perhaps is good for their health. I am one of those who believe that marijuana is, essentially, a dangerous drug and that we should do everything we can to ensure that people are not attracted to it, and that the romance that I believe has surrounded the drug at different times needs to be dispelled and dissipated.

But it is a difficult question in terms of exactly what the balance was. I am pleased that we retained the scheme. I am happy, to go to the thrust of the question, to ensure that we review it. I think that it is important that we do that. It is a good scheme. It is designed to ensure that particularly younger people do not come into contact with the criminal justice system through an appearance in court, that they do not accumulate convictions against their name, that they have an opportunity through the on-the-spot system, if it is applied at all, and that we give the police the discretion to ensure that young peopled do not become part of the revolving door of crime and justice.

I am happy to monitor the situation. I have to say, and I will say it here and now, that if in time some of the concerns that have been expressed to the government, particularly by the police, are shown to be perhaps not as real as they now appear, I would be prepared to move back. In relation to some of the other amendments, in relation to the increase in penalties and the decision to ensure that children are not abused in the process of selling, we have another example of where organised crime is ruthless and will exploit any gap in the law. It has done it in relation to children in this jurisdiction as well as elsewhere, recruiting children to sell on the basis of a gap in the law that did not impose a penalty for children as agents of sale—a dreadful abuse.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The minister’s time has expired.

DR FOSKEY: I have a supplementary question. Mr Stanhope, could you provide us with a timetable and an outline of the methods by which the government will monitor the impact of the legislation on young people’s interactions with the law and report to the Assembly on that?

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