Monday, August 22, 2011

Possession of Synthetic Cannabis Now Illegal in WA

On Friday 17 June 2011, the Western Australia government was the first state in Australia to make possession of synthetic cannabis products illegal. Despite strong public campaigning and associated media hype, there still appears to be some confusion as to whether the possession of these types of products is prohibited.
The State government inserted into the Poisons Act, seven cannabinoids, found in various brands of synthetic cannabis such as Kronic, Voodoo, Kalma and Kaos. The amendment to the law in WA makes the possession of specified cannabinoids, in any product, a criminal offence in this State. It does not matter where the product was purchased from.
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in synthetic cannabis. These cannabinoids are chemicals which are usually sprayed onto various herbs and spices, which are then packaged and sold commercially.
In this state, the Misuse of Drugs Act is the primary legislation criminalising the possession of specified prohibited drugs. The Misuse of Drugs Act gives the police authority to criminally charge people in possession of substances specified in the Poisons Act. 
This means that if a person is found in possession of any product containing the cannabinoids specified in the Poisons Act, they may be criminally charged. The penalties for simple possession of cannabinoids include a fine of up to $2,000 or 2 years imprisonment or both.
Leading up to the ban, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy and the Australian Medical Association (WA) were two of the leading agencies pushing to have synthetic cannabis made illegal. Random drug testing on some Western Australian mining sites has reportedly found that hit rates for synthetic cannabis was between 10 – 30%. This was of major concern to the mining industry, as the psychoactive effects of synthetic cannabis are reported as being very similar to THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. 
In response the CME wrote to the Health Minister requesting that synthetic cannabis be added to the Poisons Act. The AMA had also expressed concerns about mine site workers operating heavy machinery whilst under the influence of these synthetic products.
Mr Robbie Swan of the Eros Association, a group representing suppliers of synthetic cannabis, has been reported in the media as saying that it is likely that these types of products will still be available online. Further, he has said that there could be legal avenues supporting the sale and transportation of synthetic cannabis from the eastern states, where it was legal.
Nevertheless, as the new amendments presently stand in Western Australia, anyone who possesses a product containing synthetic cannabis is liable to be prosecuted, fined and/or imprisoned.

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