In the build up to Labor’s overhaul of the current state Drug Law system NSW recently introduced a two-strike system. Under this scheme, people caught with drugs of any form might be fined approximately $400 up to two times depending on the severity of their conduct and then made to undergo a compulsory training after which their fines will be wiped out. The failure to reform behaviour after the training means that the person will have to pay the required fees.
While this system reduces the number of people charged under criminal law, it still does not remove all of the criminal connotations and surveillance power over the communities.
Smoking weed in public, and as a form of socialising, is erased from the public landscape with the heavy policing of marijuana. NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) member Josh Pallas agrees that the prohibition on smoking in public feeds the stereotype of police being a “fun police”. He says that “constructing a society of civil compliance subjects of the state is pretty problematic.” The way we look at public spaces then is interesting, because there is rarely any public health discourse around smoking cannabis and how we can facilitate safer spaces for consuming marijuana. Rather, we exclusively focus on removing it from the social fabric of society.
Youth culture has always been influenced by drugs, to some extent, and the criminalisation of drugs does not stop their consumption, but encourages more illicit usage. People do nangs at house parties in the backyard, cocaine lines in the bedroom, and blunt rotations on the balcony. This isn’t an isolated experience; these exchanges happen on every level and have since time immemorial. Pallas provides a civil liberty perspective, saying we should “legalise all drugs and treat them as a health issue rather than a criminal issue”.
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