AUSTRALIA — The Parliament in South Australia will debate a proposal to increase the penalty for marijuana possession from $500 to $2,000 in its war on drugs, according to ABC News. The proposed legislation would also introduce a maximum prison sentence of two years for marijuana possession. The average fine in Australia is currently $125 for marijuana possession of less than 25 grams and no prison time.
Australia's Attorney General Vickie Chapman said cannabis should be treated the same way that other illegal narcotics are treated, as opposed to jaywalking. The Liberal government promised to increase marijuana penalty fees during its election campaign and used the war on drugs as a campaign slogan.
Tammy Franks from the Members of the South Australian Legislative Council disagrees and said that the war on drugs was really “a war on the homeless, Aboriginal people and the poor.” Franks also noted that the new law targets the most vulnerable in the community who are the least able to defend themselves financially.
Chapman said the government plans to take a look at the current penalties and decrease the number of times an individual can access the drug diversion program. An individual will only be able to access the program two times within four years.
The proposal is the result of the recommendation from deputy coroner Anthony Schapel. Schapel. He recommended the limitations on drug diversions based on the murder of Lewis McPherson by 17-year-old Liam Humbles in 2012.
Humbles had a history of aggressive, erratic behavior and had been through five drug diversions at the time of the murder. Humbles was drunk during the shooting and had also consumed marijuana, ecstasy, and crystal meth when he shot McPherson on his way to a party.
Schapel recommended an increase in fines for marijuana possession as well as placing limitations on the number of drug diversions permitted by law when it was discovered that Humbles was a drug dealer and user who had been through several drug diversions.
Rachael Shaw is the chairwoman of the Law Society of South Australia and believes that marijuana should not be treated as a criminal issue but as a health issue. Shaw said that the criminal justice system is already overwhelmed, and the new law would only add to the congestion in the courts. She added that society does not support taking away the education and counseling that the diversion program has provided for years.
The Parliament is expected to debate the proposal later in the week.