No abstract was printed
SUMMARY: The paper provides a summary of the different legislative systems which apply to minor cannabis offences in Australia. There is a recognition in Australia that the public health consequences of application of the criminal law against cannabis users may be at least as significant as those that flow directly from cannabis use itself. As a result a number of states and territories have adopted legislative and regulatory models incorporating either infringement notices or formal cautions for cannabis possession and use. South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have each adopted infringement notice systems whereby minor cannabis offences are dealt with by an ‘on the spot’ fine. Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania all have maintained legislative systems of total prohibition of cannabis. Yet recent research has shown that a conviction for a minor cannabis offence can have significant adverse social impacts but fails to deter cannabis use in many of those so convicted. Formal cautioning, the newest approach to minor cannabis offences in Australia is being embraced by governments who see it as a response to problems with the total prohibition approach, without having to change cannabis law in a way which may be construed as ‘going soft on drugs’. Some of the examples of cannabis law in Australia have been subject to extensive evaluation.