South Australia Wants To Fine People $2,000 For Low-End Weed Possession

While scores of countries and regions around the world move to legalise and decriminalise it, South Australia is shifting itself back into a version of that town from Footloose by proposing a severe crackdown on weed possession in what the new state government touts as a new “war on drugs.”

The newly-minted Steven Marshall-lead Liberal Government – which just hit its first 100 days in power – will introduce beefed-up laws into parliament next week that, if passed, will see fines for lower-level possession charges increased four-fold and, potentially, have jail time attached to them.

Under the laws, possession of cannabis would attract a fine of $2,000, and a maximum jail sentence of two years would be introduced. This elevates marijuana into the category of “other controlled drugs” alongside ecstasy or heroin.

Cannabis possession in South Australia was decriminalised back in 1987. Currently, fines of just $125 are most frequently handed out to anyone caught in possession of 25 grams or less of the weed drug.

This ridiculously large hike in fines plus the introduction of serious jail time for weed possession forms part of a core Liberal Party election promise to wage war on drugs, with other proposed measures including the introduction of sniffer dogs in schools. Seriously.

The new South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman likened the current penalties to that of mere jaywalking, and asserted the new penalties are deliberately designed to reduce the opportunity people have to seek treatment after being caught.

If we give people a chance to have treatment a couple of times, that’s fine, but really this a limit on how lenient we can be in giving people a chance to have treatment instead of a penalty.

We endorse that that’s an opportunity that should be given, but third time around you don’t get that opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, the laws are being stringently opposed not only by fellow politicians, but by lawyers and health experts as well, all of whom are adamant that the issue needs to be dealt with as a health one, not a criminal one, and that any such attempt to crack down on marijuana use through fines and incarceration would simply wind up being a direct and considered attack on Indigenous, homeless, and low socio-economic people.

The laws are due to be debating in South Australian parliament next week.