Skip navigation

Call to change cannabis cautioning laws

Pressure is building on the NSW Government to change the policing of cannabis laws after statistics show they affect First Nations people at almost three times the rate of the non-Aboriginal population.

The Legislative Council of the NSW Parliament has passed a motion calling on the NSW Government to consider relaxing or removing a requirement to the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme that requires that offenders have no prior offences.

The scheme, which has operated in NSW since 2000, allows police the discretionary power to caution people caught with 15 grams or less of cannabis as long as they meet certain criteria, including no prior convictions for drug related offences.

However, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) found a 32.2 percentage point difference in cautioning rates between all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people for minor cannabis offences.

The cautioning rate for Aboriginal offenders was 11.7% compared with 43.9% for non-Aboriginal offenders.

Legalise Cannabis NSW MLC Jeremy Buckingham, who moved the successful motion, said this was just another example of why cannabis laws in NSW need to be relaxed.

“The report found the major reason for the discrepancy was the varying eligibility rates for the scheme,” he said.

“Since Aboriginal people have higher than average rates of contact with the criminal justice system and therefore longer criminal histories, this is a form of indirect bias that limits Aboriginal people’s access to this formal diversion pathway.”

The call for change comes in the same week that Legalise Cannabis MPs in NSW, Victoria and WA simultaneously introduced a Bill to allow adults to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis.

“Our drug laws are just another way in which First Nations communities are disadvantaged,” Mr Buckingham said.

“Our out-dated laws target vulnerable communities and create unnecessary work for our police, whose time would be better spent prosecuting crime.”

Continue Reading

Read More