New Aussie war on pot begins
THOSE caught smoking weed in South Australia could soon cop massive fines and even jail time as the state looks to crackdown on cannabis possession.
As countries around the world look to loosen legislation around recreational use of the drug, South Australia's government wants to go the polar opposite direction.
As part of a new war on drugs declared by the Marshall Liberal government, the state's Attorney-General Vickie Chapman is looking to slap those smoking weed with fines which are more than four times higher than they are now.
The proposal means cannabis would be elevated to the status of "other controlled drugs" such as ecstasy and heroin with fines of up to $2000 or up to two years behind bars.
Those using cannabis in the state can currently cop fines of up to $500. However, the most common penalty is $125 for carrying 25 grams or less.
Ms Chapman told The Advertiser this is a "similar to the penalty for jaywalking" and the drug possession laws, which have remained largely unchanged for three decades, must be made tougher.
More than 2.1 million Australians reported using cannabis in the past 12 months, feeding a multibillion-dollar cannabis black market which police are struggling to tackle.
Much of this is grown in suburban houses and, in NSW alone, cops have raided more than 570 grow houses in southwestern Sydney, finding about $205 million worth of cannabis.
"It's just enormous, it's a huge problem," Gus Viera, who commands the NSW Strike Force Zambesi which carries out the raids, told ABC today.
"We have been raiding all these houses and I'm not sure we're even making a dent."
It comes after The Greens announced a new drug law reform policy to decriminalise the drug for adults in Australia, saying those convicted of drug use had to live with a criminal record that hurt their ability to get jobs.
Today it has been revealed that there is widespread support for the move in certain parts of Australia.
An Essential telephone poll of more than 1,100 Tasmanians found 59 per cent supported the move while 28 per cent opposed it.
Senator Di Natale told news.com.au shortly after the policy announcement in April the current approach to drugs had been a "dismal failure" and forced "seven million ordinary Australians" to deal with criminals.
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt has been the most vocal critic of the Greens' proposals, saying that legalising a "gateway drug" would create physical and mental health problems.
"Marijuana is a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented," Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.
"We do not believe it is safe, responsible or something which should be allowed."
Canada is the latest country to announce it is legalising recreational use of marijuana - where the plant will be legal from October 17 in a move aimed to take market share away from organised crime and protect the country's youth.
The world's second biggest country by landmass is following Uruguay in allowing a nationwide, legal marijuana market, although each province is working up its own rules for sales.
"It is our hope as of October 17 there will be a smooth operation of retail cannabis outlets operated by the provinces with an online mail delivery system operated by the provinces that will ensure that this happens in an orderly fashion," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.
"Over the following months and indeed years we will completely replace or almost completely replace the organised crime market on that."
In January, weed was made recreationally legal in a number of US states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington D.C.
This brought parts of America in line with numerous countries including Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, parts of India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Uruguay - all of which have made recreational weed use legal or decriminalised.