In the eyes of the Queensland government, there isn't a whole lot of difference between a recreational pothead and a Trainspotting-style junkie. This is thanks to an amendment put forth by the state's Attorney-General Yvette D'ath. If passed, the new laws will ditch the current drug scheduling system, which recognises that different narcotics pose different risks, and will simply lump all illegal drugs together under the same blanket legislation. This could potentially happen as soon as August.
Although sentences will still vary according to the quantities involved, the new laws will mean the type of drug will have no bearing on the legal outcome for someone accused of purchasing, selling, or trafficking. The changes are based on the findings of the independent Queensland Commission of Inquiry into Organised Crime, chaired by Michael Byrne QC, which notes that Australian use of cannabis is higher than the global average.
Queenslanders are particularly partial to the green stuff. The Commission report says lax hydroponic equipment regulations in the state mean locally sourced cannabis tends to be super potent too. The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicated that 11.1 percent of Queenslanders aged 14 years or older had used cannabis in the past 12 months.
The Commission's report warns that public attitudes towards cannabis are way too relaxed, saying that "although its common use indicates a perception that the drug is 'harmless,' this is not the case and the use of the drug places social and economic (particularly health care sector) burdens on the state."
"A one-schedule drug regime will remove any risk of inconsistency in the scheduling of substances and provide for a more readily transparent penalty regime, which may enhance its deterrent value," the Queensland government said in its official response to the Commission's findings.
Again following the recommendations of the Commission report, which states that "higher maximum penalties should apply where the drugs are procured or supplied using the internet." The Queensland government will also crack down on use of the deep web as an avenue to sell and purchase illicit drugs.
The move comes across as a little puzzling in light of a global movement towards the decriminalisation of cannabis use. Marijuana is now legal in some form in twenty three US states, and its use is increasingly accepted by law enforcement agencies throughout the UK.
In fact, the proposed changes follow an announcement on April 8 that Queensland's state government will support the legal access to medicinal cannabis. In a media statement earlier this month, state health minister Cameron Dick said that "Queensland is leading Australia" with its proposed new regulatory legislation, which if passed will support legal access to medicinal cannabis for Queensland's patients.
Other Australian states have been loosening up their medicinal cannabis laws lately too. Last week Victoria became the first Australian state to pass a bill stipulating how medical marijuana will be grown and distributed, while on Friday Barnaby Joyce enjoyed a prime photo opportunity in Tamworth, NSW, where he formally announced the opening of Australia's first medicinal cannabis farm.
Follow Kat on Twitte