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Cannabis Possession Laws: A movement toward Change

Cannabis plant at sunset

In the state election earlier this year, the Legalise Cannabis WA (LCWA) Party took out two Legislative Council seats. The party’s ideology includes establishing a legalised and regulated cannabis market to be overseen by an independent authority, the quashing of historical convictions and criminal records, and drug driving laws overhauled to test for impairment rather than presence.

The fact that the party‘s aims resonated with many people reflects changing attitudes towards drug policy overall, both here and overseas.

Australia still takes a punitive approach to drug use, whereas countries such as the Netherlands have had success treating it primarily as a health issue. That doesn’t mean that serious offenders aren’t punished, it just means that there is a large focus on rehabilitation. This is intended long-term, to reduce the demand for drugs overall and therefore impact supply, which is often led by criminal gangs.

Marijuana is considered a good place to start given that it is not deemed a particularly hard drug, and many people use it recreationally, or to reduce chronic pain, irrespective of what the law says. Many countries and several states in the U.S. have taken steps to legalise the use and sale of medical marijuana. In recent years, a growing number of jurisdictions are now also permitting the recreational use of marijuana.

The Canadian model is one many have watched closely, and it is still unfolding. But in 2018, new laws passed in Canada which allow Canadians over 19 years old (18 in Alberta and Québec) to carry 30 grams of cannabis in public, share (not sell) up to 30 grams with other adults and grow four cannabis plants per household (regardless of the number of occupants).

The Canadian Cannabis Act does include a number of safeguards in the interest of public health, such as prohibiting the making of concentrations, regulating packaging, packing and promotion, and disallowing sponsorship by drug growers or sellers. The law still includes tough penalties for drug driving which is illegal. But by and large, the legislation appears to be working, fulfilling its aims to:

  • keep cannabis out of the hands of youth
  • keep profits out of the pockets of criminals
  • protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis.

Around Australia, cannabis law reform is taking some time.

Western Australian Drug Laws

Here in Western Australia the laws with regard to possession and use of cannabis are tough, although the Cannabis Intervention Requirement (CIR) Scheme is an important part of the justice system and aims to protect first-time or younger users of the drug from prosecution.

Further reading: Advice from a Perth drug charge defence lawyer

What is Western Australia’s CIR Scheme?

Western Australian Police may issue a CIR notice if a person is 14 years or over, and is found using, or in possession of a maximum of 10 grams of cannabis, and/or is found in possession of a smoking implement containing detectable traces of cannabis.

An adult can only receive one CIR, while a young person (aged 14-17 years) can be given a CIR on two separate occasions. An adult who previously received a CIR and commits a second or subsequent cannabis-related offence will be prosecuted through the courts.

A young person who commits a third or subsequent minor cannabis-related offence will be dealt with via application of the Young Offenders’ Act 1994.

The CIR Scheme does not apply to offences involving the possession or cultivation of cannabis plants, or possession of any quantities of cannabis resin (hash), hash oil, or other cannabis derivatives.

Drug charges for possession for personal use and possession with intent to sell or supply come with a range of penalties. The extent of the penalty often depends on the weight, and whether the police can prove that there was an intention to profit in a commercial sense by selling the drugs. Many drugs are illegal in Western Australia. These are outlined in the schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act WA and also in particular schedules to the Poisons Standard (The SUSMP).

Drug Driving is illegal

If you have been charged with the offence of Driving with Prescribed Illicit Drug in Oral Fluid, or the more serious charge of Drug Impaired Driving while impaired by Drugs then the penalties can include fines, loss of demerit points, lengthy or permanent license suspensions and even prison time for repeat offenders. Learn more about drug driving laws in WA. 

For more information about Western Australia's drug laws, you can view the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981. If you have been charged with a drug-related criminal offence, contact us

PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.

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