South Australia - which was the first Australian state to decriminalize cannabis possession back in 1987 - is looking to drastically increase the maximum fines people can receive if caught with cannabis. The push comes straight from South Australia's Attorney General Vickie Chapman, who is looking to toughen up the state's drug laws after a 2012 murder was committed by a young man who had consumed cannabis.
"This is a serious drug and those who have previously said it was a recreational drug, not much worse than tobacco, really those days are over," Chapman said in an interview. Her claims are rooted in the murder of Lewis McPherson, who was shot by 17-year-old Liam Humbles outside a New Year's Eve party in 2012. Humbles was found to have consumed alcohol, ecstasy and cannabis the day of the shooting.
Chapman says this crime should make "everyone to sit up and reappraise the significance of cannabis and the dangers of using the drug." But not everyone is buying her argument. Alex Wodak of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation says the facts don't add up.
"Most people who smoke cannabis crawl into a corner and fall asleep or they eat ice cream," he said. "They don’t go around murdering people. That’s not the pattern. This is just nonsense."
"What they’re talking about doing is absolutely crazy," he added.
If Chapman's proposed legislation is passed, personal possession or use of cannabis could lead to a maximum fine of $2,000 AUD and up to 2 years of prison time.
Others, such as Tim Mellor - who represents the South Australia Law Society - says Chapman's bill fails to recognize the complex socioeconomic aspects of addiction.
"The bill, in our view, fails to sufficiently recognize that drug addiction is a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue," he wrote in a submission to the government. "To 'win the war on drugs,' the medical and social issues that underpin drug addiction must be addressed."
We would have to agree with Mellor. In fact, studies show that legalization doesn't create violence, it reduces it.