Cannibis Law Reform Bill Speech

6744 [COUNCIL - Thursday, 16 September 2010]

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [11.35 am]: I rise to speak in opposition to the Cannabis Law
Reform Bill 2009 before us and to echo the concerns raised by Hon Giz Watson on behalf of the Greens (WA). I
do not believe this is an effective strategy to reduce use. I think we are all in agreement that drug use and drug
abuse in our society is a problem that needs to be addressed seriously, but this is not an effective strategy to
address that. I will summarise the points for my argument. The existing cautioning system that we have is
effective, and many members have given evidence to support that. Not only that, the review by the previous
government supports this conclusion. Cannabis use has declined. We heard that the research has shown that
cannabis use has declined from 18 per cent in 2001 to 11 per cent in 2007. Furthermore, evidence-based
responses are important in these serious issues, and I have not heard the evidence base for this change. What I
have heard, and what Hon Giz Watson documented for members, is a series of very significant and important
authorities in drug research who would not support these changes. She mentioned and quoted—if members
choose to reflect in Hansard—the Chief Justice, Wayne Martin, who is a highly respected member of our
community and of the legal profession and who is on the front line in dealing with people who have drug issues.
Hon Giz Watson also quoted Associate Professor Simon Lenton, who is the deputy director of the National Drug
Research Institute at Curtin University, one of the best sources of information in documenting the impacts of
drugs in our society. She also quoted Dr Alex Wodak, the Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at Sydney’s
St Vincent’s Hospital, and she cited several national research projects and surveys, all of which point away from
the direction of this bill’s response to the drugs problem.

Cannabis use has serious implications for some people’s health and particularly their mental wellbeing. We
know that adequate funding for support services and community education is desperately required to divert
people from the drug abuse. The government’s proposed response to the problem forces people into contact with
dealers and into the criminal justice system at some significant expense to this state. I am concerned that these
changes will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people and people living in remote areas where drug use
support services are scarce and under-resourced. Members, we have just heard Hon Linda Savage talk about the
under-resourcing in the health services for people who find themselves struggling with a drug problem. The
Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies estimates a minimum of 1 000 juveniles and
2 000 adults are likely to newly require their services as a result of these changes. That is a significant burden on
what is already a very under-resourced sector. The Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug
Agencies is speaking out. Although not totally opposed to some of the changes in this bill, it draws attention to
the fact that there are seven regional and seven metropolitan staff who are struggling to meet the demand for
their services. We have even heard members on the other side talk about the increasing drug problem in the
regions. The government needs to make a serious response at a very serious financial expense to ensure that
these services can address that growing problem. This bill will not address that. We look forward to the
government responding in a serious way to these problems by appropriately funding drug counselling services.

One of the effects of this legislation will be that there are more mandated clients. This will not only be a burden
on the services, but also change the nature of the services. At the moment, as we have heard, alcohol and
amphetamine abuse are major issues in our society. We need to have health services and counselling services to
address these major health issues in our society. If we increase by such incredible numbers the people who are
considered in need of counselling and health services, I think we can be concerned that these other significant
problems will not be adequately addressed. Although we oppose the cannabis bill because we see it going in the
wrong direction to address a very serious problem in our society, we hope that the government will address these
forthcoming issues by injecting more funding into the drug health and counselling services, particularly in the
regions.