The Minister Responsible for WA’s Drug Abuse Strategy, Rhonda Parker, said findings by researchers at the University of Western Australia that legalising marijuana would increase consumption by about 13 per cent confirmed the Coalition Government’s strong opposition to legalising the drug.
“It is a basic economic rule that increased availability of a drug leads to increased use and abuse and consequently increased harm”, Mrs Parker said.
“This remains the strongest argument against any proposal to liberalise cannabis use.
“The level of spending on cannabis use confirms the need for an effective cannabis prevention strategy.
“Cannabis is a harmful drug, but the perception in the community is still that it is okay and doesn’t do you any harm.
“Suggestions by some to legalise possession of the drug for personal use does not help our efforts to counter that misconception.
“Cannabis use in Western Australia is far too high and we need to continue our efforts to prevent harm by getting those levels down.
“Over the past 12 months we have been running - for the first time in Australia - a public education campaign on the harms caused by cannabis.
“We have also introduced the pilot cannabis cautioning system for first time offenders linking them into a mandatory education program designed to motivate behavioural change.
“The public education campaign challenges the myth that cannabis is a harmless drug and seeks to prevent use and encourage dependent users to quit.
“It reinforces the fact that it contains more tar than tobacco, causes cognitive damage and isolates users socially, with up to 10 per cent of cannabis users becoming dependent on the drug.
“The campaign has been independently evaluated and showed high levels of credibility, recognition and relevance to the target group.
“Cannabis has also been linked to mental illness such as psychosis and schizophrenia.”
The Minister said a range of surveys over the past couple of years confirmed that young people especially were unaware of the risks associated with cannabis use and showed the need for more information.
Media contact: Owen Cole: 9481 7810