Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 August 2008) . . Page.. 3744 ..
stance on this is fundamentally quite ridiculous, because marijuana, or cannabis, is an illegal substance. Yes, you can get an infringement notice if you are caught in possession of a minor amount—you may have two small plants—but it is still an offence. Of course, for more serious infringements, penalties start at up to two years imprisonment, and they go much higher than that for commercial quantities. It is an incredibly dangerous drug. It is far more dangerous now than it was when I was a young bloke and people were starting to experiment with it. It is a drug that affects people’s mental health. Hydroponic cannabis is 20 times more powerful than normal cannabis, and even the government seems to realise how serious that is. It is grown in the ACT, with the interior of houses actually being demolished to allow for it.
Some sensible legislation—I commend Mr Mulcahy on that—has been introduced in this place to counter the problem. The government’s views on this are just amazing, though. You are encouraging young people to effectively break the law in terms of smoking it by allowing drug paraphernalia to be displayed and sold. A friend of mine actually operates a tobacconist shop and lotto agency in Belconnen Mall. He used to make a fair bit of money by selling bongs, but he found that was morally reprehensible, so he has voluntarily got rid of them, and I commend him for that. He loses a bit of money out of that, and it is a fairly difficult business at the best of times, but, clearly, his conscience would not allow him to sell these items.
Anyone with young children always worries about the risk of drugs, and cannabis is a very available drug. I have known of people whose kids have been sold cannabis for five bucks, for example, at Canberra Stadium by older kids. It is readily available for young people where they meet at schools. It is terribly dangerous too. It is not just like in the old days where perhaps it might lead to addiction to more serious drugs. These days it is very, very dangerous in its own right. Of course, Mr Mulcahy’s bill does not just cover that; it covers other things as well.
If we are serious about tackling the scourge of drugs in our community, we should be doing things to make it harder for people who actually use illicit drugs. There are enough problems with legal drugs in our community—alcohol and tobacco—let alone illicit drugs. By allowing these items to be sold and, even worse, displayed, I think just sends all the wrong messages. I am very happy to support Mr Mulcahy’s bill. I think it sends all the right messages. Other states have introduced similar legislation, and that is about protecting our young people. You are not going to do it by adopting the approach of the minister and the government in relation to this. I think it is a shame the government is not supporting this bill. It is a sensible bill, it is a timely bill, and it should be welcomed by the Assembly, as it would be, I think, by any right-thinking person in our community.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.39), in reply: I thank all members for their contributions to this debate. In the time I have available I will try and address some of the issues that were raised. The Attorney-General offered the perspective that he thought this legislation was premature. What I would say in relation to that is that I have heard this old excuse trotted out before. Members will remember with the drug-driving issue, which I had an interest in pursuing as an area for legislative attention long before I came to this place. I know Mr Pratt has pursued it, and we heard the government say then, “Well, we’ve got to consult those affected. You know, we’ve got to be careful we do not pick up somebody who was using cocaine the night before, because all these drugs have half lives.”