Will Cannabis ever be Legalised in Queensland?
The growing demand for cannabis
In 2015 there were two very high profile drug busts in Brisbane involving enormous amounts of cannabis. On 1 October 2015, a house in Durack was raided during which police discovered approximately $1 million in cannabis plants. As a result of this discovery, a 21-year-old Vietnamese man was charged with drug-related offences.
Then on 14 October 2015, a house in Sunnybank was raided during which police discovered approximately $2 million in cannabis plants. As a result of this raid a 32 year and 22 year old, both Vietnamese men, were charged — also with drug offences.
There doesn’t appear to be any link between the two houses but both were discovered when unidentified members of the public (presumably neighbours) contacted the police to report suspicious behaviour. When the police raided these houses they discovered that the houses had been heavily modified into virtual ‘greenhouses’. These were very elaborate and sophisticated setups including hundreds of power leads.
The power meters had also been set up to divert electricity from the mains power, meaning that the enormous electricity consumption that these houses required was not able to be detected by the electricity companies. Cridland & Hua Defence Lawyers are representing some of these men and their matters are still presently proceeding through the Richlands and Brisbane Magistrates courts.
While the drug ‘ice’ has received a lot of media attention recently because of its very destructive effects, these recent busts prove that there is still a strong demand for cannabis in Brisbane. Such elaborate set ups have been common in other states, particularly New South Wales, for decades now. However, according to the police, they are increasing in number in Queensland.
How serious is cannabis possession viewed by the courts?
In Queensland drugs are separated into different categories: ‘dangerous drugs’, ‘restricted drugs’ and ‘controlled drugs’. ‘Dangerous drugs’ are illegal drugs in the common sense and include heroin and ice, whereas restricted and controlled drugs are pharmaceutical drugs that are prescribed by doctors.
Under the category of ‘dangerous drugs,’ there are two further sub-categories; ‘schedule 1’ and ‘schedule 2’ dangerous drugs. ‘Schedule 1’ drugs include heroin, ice, ecstasy and cocaine and are seen to be more serious and carry higher penalties than ‘schedule 2’ drugs. ‘Schedule 2’ drugs include cannabis and opiate replacements (which are prescribed to people trying to get off heroin) such as subutex and diazepam.
Therefore, while the possession of cannabis is still a serious offence (and can carry a lengthy term of imprisonment as a sentence) it is still viewed less seriously than schedule 1 drugs such as heroin and ice. The explanation for that might lie in the effects that the drug has on the user and on society as a whole.
Why do people smoke cannabis?
In our experience people will use cannabis for a number of reasons: it helps them relax and sleep at night (otherwise their mind races and they can’t sleep); to self-medicate for physical pain, such as back pain (that traditional medication has been ineffective in treating); as a form of mental ‘escape’ from their terrible life situation; or to avoid taking more dangerous drugs such as ice.
Following on from this, it is very often argued that cannabis has far less social impacts than drugs such as ice. Ice is a drug that can cause people to become psychotic, paranoid and highly violent.
Will it ever be legalised in Queensland?
In many parts around the world, and even in some states in Australia, such as the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Northern Territory, it is perfectly legal to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal usage. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are currently considering legalising cannabis usage for ‘medicinal’ purposes. Under this program, users would not be allowed to grow their own cannabis but it would instead be prescribed by a specialist and then sold through pharmacies.
Medicinal cannabis would be available in a variety of forms, including oils, capsules, sprays and vaporisable liquids because the research suggests that these methods of consumption are much safer than traditional smoking. Therefore, the benefits of cannabis are very quickly becoming known and accepted in Australia and it will only be a matter of time until it is legalised.
However, cannabis would only be legalised in a progressive scenario. Firstly, it will be for medicinal purposes only and there will still be very tight restrictions on who can use it, how much of it they can use and for what purpose they can use it.