Dope busts in the West: minor cannabis offences in the Western Australian criminal justice system
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Proponents of cannabis law reform argue that many people who are convicted for minor cannabis offences have no prior criminal conviction and are otherwise law-abiding citizens. This study of criminal justice system data in a strict prohibition jurisdiction (Western Australia) found that over 10% of all charges and 85% of all drug charges were for cannabis. Approximately 90% of these were for minor offences. Over 40% of those charged with cannabis possession/use as their most serious offence had never been arrested for any prior offence. Almost half of those first arrested for cannabis possession/use had not been arrested up to 10 years later. Younger first-time arrested cannabis users were more likely to be arrested than older offenders. Almost all adult cannabis offenders who went to court were convicted and fined. Nearly 95% of those imprisoned for possession/use of cannabis were gaoled for fine default. The findings accord with earlier research showing that the vast majority of these offenders are, in all respects apart from their cannabis use, a non-criminal section of the community.
Originally published in Drug and Alcohol Review 1996 15(4) pp. 101-112
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