Think we’re no longer criminalising people for using cannabis? Think again

Those who oppose cannabis law reform often argue that people are already avoiding arrest for possession of minor amounts of the drug. That’s not the reality for thousands of cannabis users every year, reports Madeleine Holden.

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“You have no idea what it’s like, how powerless you are.”

Greg, a 61-year-old invalids’ beneficiary, is recalling his time spent in prison for cannabis convictions. “You can’t even go through a gate until it’s unlocked for you,” he explains. “Everything takes so long, you’ve got to fill out countless forms and wait for things and half the time they never bloody happen. The whole thing’s a real test.”

Since he was first busted at the age of 19, Greg’s been in and out of the criminal justice system for cannabis possession and small-scale cultivation. He’s received the full gamut of available punishments over the years, from fines to prison sentences, and he recently completed six months of home detention for growing just two cannabis plants — something that would have been legal under the proposed law change. “That was harder than being in jail in a lot of ways,” he says. “I couldn’t even get to the letterbox without permission. You get really frustrated, you want to just whip up to the dairy to get something and you can’t. In jail you don’t think about leaving, because you can’t! You just can’t.”

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