Tough new penalties for possessing and growing cannabis or selling smoking implements come into force in Western Australia on August 1.
Police Minister Rob Johnson announced on Sunday that the “relaxed, soft drug laws” introduced by the previous Labor government would be repealed and replaced by a stricter regime.
“What it will mean is that those people caught with cannabis will not simply get a slap on the wrist,” he told reporters.
But the opposition says the new penalties are just “smoke and mirrors” to make out the government is tough on drugs when it’s facing pressure over a growth in clandestine drug labs in the suburbs.
Under the new laws, someone caught with more than 10 grams of cannabis, rather than the 30g under the previous law, will face a penalty of $2000 or two years in jail, or both.
That will also apply to people found with any cannabis plants, where previously the possession of two plants led to the issuing of an infringement notice and a $100 to $200 fine.
A person found in possession of more than 100g of cannabis would be deemed to have that quantity for supply and could face a penalty of $20,000 or two years in jail.
A person found in possession of 10g or less of cannabis will receive a Cannabis Intervention Requirement notice to attend a mandatory counselling session.
It will also be illegal for cannabis smoking implements to be displayed in shops or sold, with fines up to $10,000 for sales to adults and jail for up to two years or a fine of up to $24,000 for selling to minors.
Mr Johnson said that previously 95 per cent of people caught with cannabis elected to pay “the equivalent of a parking ticket”, but of those only 30 per cent ever paid.
Of the five per cent who elected to attend educational sessions “hardly anybody ever turned up, so it just didn’t work”, he said.
Mr Johnson said mandatory counselling sessions had proved successful in Queensland, where similar laws had been introduced, leading to a drop in cannabis usage.
He said WA’s cannabis laws were seen as lax by other jurisdictions.
The new laws were part of the Liberal-National government’s fight against illegal drugs and their devastating effects on users as well as families, the minister said.
“The amount of toxicity in cannabis is enormous these days and it’s very damaging to people’s brains,” he said.
“It can cause schizophrenia and create terrible mental health problems.”
But opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said most West Australians would say the government should focus on harder drugs.
“The only reason the government is making a big fuss of these laws now is it’s under increasing pressure in relation to the growing amphetamine problem,” she said.
Ms Quirk said clandestine drug labs were exploding in Perth’s suburbs, placing neighbours at risk.
Introducing tough cannabis laws was a “nice, symbolic thing for the government to do to show they’re tough on drugs” but it was much harder to get on top of the amphetamine problem, she said.
“It’s all about the smoke and mirrors, it’s not about really targeting our laws where they’re needed,” Ms Quirk said.
– Article from Sydney Morning Herald.