It's Pyne time again!
From The AdvertiserMP wants all dope smokers convicted
By PHILLIP COOREY
20 Jan 2006
SOUTH Australia's major political parties have been urged to make the personal use of marijuana a criminal offence as part of their state election agendas.
SA federal Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Christopher Pyne, said it was time to recriminalise personal cannabis use in SA because of links to mental health problems.
On-the-spot fines for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use have applied in SA since 1988.
"It's an illicit drug. The message of decriminalisation is this isn't really a problem," Mr Pyne told The Advertiser yesterday.
With the advent of hydroponics, marijuana today was much stronger than that of the 1980s and people were smoking it from their early teens, he said.
"The states bear a heavy burden because of the rush in the '80s and '90s to decriminalise cannabis laws," Mr Pyne said.
"It's one thing to have tough-on-drugs rhetoric, but the state needs to crack down on the personal use of cannabis.
"They should recriminalise cannabis use in SA."
Prime Minister John Howard recently championed the call, saying "far from embracing further decriminalisation, authorities should be going in the opposite direction". Opposition legal affairs spokesman Rob Lawson yesterday hinted the Liberals would unveil such measures closer to the March 18 state election.
He said the policy would adopt "a tougher and firmer approach" to the current decriminalisation laws in he state.
"We say these laws have not worked," he said.
"We certainly think cannabis laws should be toughened. They're too lenient."
Attorney-General Michael Atkinson said the Rann Government had no plans to change the laws but had considerably strengthened its stance against drug use over the past four years.
The Government had made it a criminal offence to grow even one plant hydroponically and introduced testing and fines for those driving while on drugs.
Fear of being caught driving on drugs would also act as a social deterrent by making people think twice about getting stoned, Mr Atkinson said.
"We've also passed tough, new, serious drug offences targeting drug lords who cultivate, manufacture and traffic drugs, in an effort to combat drug availability," he said.
Mr Atkinson said the Government had also made a considerable gains in drug education.
Personal use of marijuana in SA was decriminalised in 1988 by the then-Bannon Labor government amid concerns small-time users were clogging the courts and receiving criminal records. Initially, a person was allowed a maximum 10 plants in their back yard in return for an on-the-spot fine if busted.
That amount was reduced to one plant by successive governments.
Currently in SA, being caught with one non-hydroponic plant or less than 100g of cannabis attracts a maximum fine of $150.
Having between 100g and 2kg of the drug, or between two and 19 plants, will guarantee a person a court appearance.
Being caught with more means between two and 25 years in prison and fines ranging from $2000 to $500,000.
Mr Pyne will outline his case in a speech to the National Young Liberal Convention in Sydney on Sunday.