“QUOTEWORTHY” 1994

1. “Counsel for the applicant referred the Court to Stavropoulos and Zamouzris (1990) 50 A Crim R 315, where, at p324, McGarvie J, with whom the other members of the Court agreed, said:

“The courts have taken judicial notice that offences concerning a drug such as cannabis are much less heinous than those concerning a drug such as heroin.”

More recent experience has, in my opinion, drawn the seriousness of the offence of trafficking in marijuana somewhat closer to similar offences in relation to so-called hard drugs. Reference to this was made in R v Pastras [1993] VicSC 93; (1993) 65 A Crim R 584 where it was said in this Court at p590:

“Those who have experience in the administration of the criminal justice system know that prolonged use of marijuana can cause great harm, particularly to psychologically vulnerable individuals.”

In that case also it was said that the time has passed when leniency can be given to traffickers in marijuana on the basis that the drug was not seriously harmful.

The learned sentencing judge, who is Chairman of the Youth Parole Board and probably as well placed as any judge to observe the harm that can be suffered by youth in particular by the use of marijuana, referred to the judgment of this Court in R v Pastras and, before doing so, said:

“My experience at the Youth Parole Board and discussions with youth in detention has highlighted the contribution use of marijuana has made to serious criminal offences being committed by young people. Further, marijuana use can and does, in so many cases, lead to use of harder drugs by injection. In particular, speed, in so far as youth are concerned.

It is well known in the community that cannabis is readily available. The price has remained fairly constant over the years. It is cheaper than speed and heroin, and consequently resorted to by youth. Youth are targeted by the pushers. The community has become aware that marijuana is available, even in some schools.

It is a fact that something of the order of 90 percent of youth detained in youth training centres have been involved in the use of illicit substances of an order that has been a factor contributing to their offending. Indeed, for the years ending June 1993 and June 1994, about 93 percent of youth paroled by the Youth Parole Board were required to submit to a special condition of parole that required attendance for drug counselling as directed by their parole officer. In a high proportion of those cases, marijuana was involved.

The harmful effects of the use of marijuana is now more fully understood.”

In my view, the sooner those observations are known to the wider community the better.” Southwell J in R v Akkas [1994] VicSC 640, Vic Sup Ct (FC), 24 October 1994.