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Cannabis Law Reform

Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme

In Western Australia (WA) the primary source of legislation related to cannabis, as well as other illicit drugs, is contained in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (MDA).

On 14 October 2010 the Cannabis Law Reform Bill 2009 was passed by the WA Parliament to overturn the previous Cannabis infringement notice (CIN) scheme by repealing the Cannabis Control Act 2003 (CCA) & amending the MDA by adding new offences concerned with prohibit the possession, sale & supply of cannabis smoking paraphernalia & to establish the Cannabis intervention requirement (CIR) scheme.

The Cannabis Law Reform Act 2010 (CLRA) was proclaimed so that from 1 August 2011 WA police have the option of issuing a conditional cautioning scheme involving mandated attendance at an education intervention, for first time adult offenders, who have committed a defined minor cannabis offence of either:
  • possession of drug paraphernalia in or on which there is cannabis (MDA Section 7B(6), or
  • possession of not more than 10 grams of cannabis (MDA Section 6(2).

The reintroduction of cautioning for minor cannabis offenders is similar as the Cannabis cautioning mandatory education scheme (CCMES), which operated between October 1998 & March 2004. Whereas both the CCMES & the CIR scheme were established under the Cannabis Law Reform Act 2010 were introduced by Liberal governments, the CIN scheme was introduced by a Labor government.

The October 2010 reforms added a new section to the MDA, Part IIIA, which sets out the framework for police to issue a CIR notice, subject to the condition the offender attend a cannabis intervention session (CIS). Offenders will avoid prosecution for the underlying minor cannabis offence if they attend & complete a CIS, which will only be able to be undertaken at an 'approved treatment provider', ie the same group of drug treatment agencies which authorised to provide the cannabis education session (CES) under both the CIN scheme & the CCMES.

There are different provisions for adults & juveniles in the CLRA in relation to eligibility for a CIR if they had already been convicted of a minor cannabis offence or already issued with a CIR. Whearas adults will not be able to receive a CIR if they have previously been convicted or received a CIR, for juveniles, they will be able to receive a CIR if they have had one prior conviction or previously been issued with a CIR.

The CLRA also amended the Spent Convictions Act 1988 to reduce the prescribed period from 10 years to 3 years for a person to apply for a spent conviction order if they had been convicted of offences under either Sections 5(1)(d)(i) (possession of a cannabis smoking implement) or 6(2) (possession of not more than 10 grams of cannabis) of the MDA. However, the CLRA expressly precludes the 3 year waiting time from having any retroactive effect, which means the 10 year waiting period will apply if someone had been convicted for either of these offences before the CLRA.

To view or download copies of these statutes click here to go to the State Law Publisher.

Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme

The CIN scheme operated in WA between 22 March 2004 & October 2010 & meant WA police could issue an adult offender with an infringement notice, instead of charging them, if they committed any of four defined expiable minor cannabis offences set out in the CCA.

Statutory review of Cannabis Control Act 2003

A statutory review in 2007 examined the first 3 years operation of the CCA. Whilst the review covered the period from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2007, when a total of 9,328 CINs were issued, technically as the CIN scheme commenced 22 March 2004, it also included the 52 CINs issued in March 2004.

The review was published as four separate reports, three of which were tabled in the WA Parliament in November 2007 - the Technical report, Appendices & Executive summary. The fourth report, Supplementary tables & figures, was published contemporaneously by the Drug & Alcohol Office on its website:

  • Statutory review of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 - Technical report [1.3MB]
  • Statutory review of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 - Appendices [2.5MB]
  • Statutory review of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 - Executive summary [236k]
  • Statutory review of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 - Supplementary data tables & figures [784k]

Copies of these reports may be available from the Drug & Alcohol Office website here.

The review considered the impact of the CIN scheme as well as additional issues related to the ambit of the other provisions contained in the CCA, as evident in the Technical report, such as the regulation of the sale of cannabis smoking paraphernalia & public health measures in conjunction with the CIN scheme. The Technical report consists of 11 chapters as follows:

  • Minor cannabis offences & law reform (Ch 1)
  • CIN scheme: first 3 years (Ch 2)
  • Prevalence of cannabis & other drug use (Ch 3)
  • Community views on cannabis law reforms (Ch 4)
  • Harms associated with cannabis (Ch 5)
  • Help seeking behaviour (Ch 6)
  • Costs & benefits of CIN scheme (Ch 7)
  • Targeting of serious drug offenders (Ch 8)
  • Cannabis smoking paraphernalia (Ch 9)
  • Juveniles (Ch 10)
  • Feasibility of mandatory cannabis education (Ch 11)

The Technical report also has 11 Appendices which contain detailed tables, extracts of legislation, copies of education materials & newspaper advertisements & other types of materials such as forms, guidelines and administrative instructions:

  • CIN scheme data tables & figures (App 1)
  • Help seeking behaviour (App 2)
  • Knowledge & attitudes about cannabis harms & law reform issues (App 3)
  • Criminal justice data tables & figures (App 4)
  • Prevalence of cannabis & other drug use (App 5)
  • Cannabis smoking paraphernalia (App 6)
  • Cannabis education session materials (App 7)
  • Legislation, police & court data systems (App 8)
  • Forms, guidelines, instructions & training protocols (App 9)
  • List of those who made written submissions (App 10)
  • Methodology & research issues (App 11)

Working Party on Drug Law Reform: 2001-2004

The Working Party on Drug Law Reform (WPDLR), was established by the Minister for Health in December 2001 following the WA Drug Summit held in August 2001.

Note: The proceedings of the five days of the Drug Summit, background papers, the final report & other materials are presently available from the Drug & Alcohol Office website here.

The key purpose of the WPDLR, which was to provide the Government with options to establish a scheme for minor cannabis offenders to expiate offences instead of being charged by the police, as recommended by the Drug Summit, was set out in a report published in March 2002, Implementation of a scheme of prohibition with civil penalties for the personal use of cannabis and other matters. The report also included consideration of the feasibility of other reforms involving aspects of cannabis laws in WA. Most of the recommendations of the WPDLR with respect to establishing an infringement notice scheme were accepted and were used to create the Cannabis Control Bill 2003, which was introduced into the WA Parliament in March 2003.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (1.3MB) of the first report.

In addition to the first report concerning cannabis law reforms, the WPDLR also produced a second report in February 2004, Law enforcement measures to reduce harms associated with injecting drug use in Western Australia.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (926k) of the second report.

The WPDLR was dissolved in March 2004. Both reports of the WPDLR may be available from the Drug & Alcohol Office website here.

Short papers

Hydroponic cannabis and potency

This paper is intended to highlight developments in the WA, SA & the ACT infringement schemes in relation to hydroponically cultivated cannabis & amendments in 2006 in New South Wales (NSW) which created new offences & increased the penalties applicable to hydroponically cultivated cannabis.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (299k) of this paper.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1981: Summary of offences

This short paper provides an outline of the offences & penalties under the MDA in relation to both minor & serious cannabis offences. It summarises the provisions contained in the various schedules to the MDA which set out the amounts of cannabis which determine place of trial & seriousness of offence (ie possession with intent to sell or supply).

Click here to view or download a PDF version (16k) of this paper.

Cannabis arrests: Australia & other jurisdictions - 2004

The short paper provides information about cannabis arrests and all drug arrests in each Australian jurisdiction & the United Kingdom for the year 2004/2005 & New Zealand & the United States for 2004. (Only cannabis arrests for the US data were readily available for 2004.)

Click here to view or download a PDF (238k) version of this publication.

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