MOST AUSTRALIANS WANT MARIJUANA DECRIMINALISED
November 1, 1999
From the Australian Associated Press
About three quarters of Australians support decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, a Newspoll has found.
Life Education Australia executive director Terry Metherell said the poll, conducted last weekend, showed support for fines instead of criminal records in minor marijuana offences was strong across all age groups.
It was strongest among people aged 25-34 (84 per cent) and weakest among those over 50 (66 per cent).
"Married respondents or those with children or in full or part-time work were more likely to favour the use of fines than respondents who were unmarried, without children or not in the workforce," Dr Metherell said.
White collar employees were significantly more likely to support the use of fines over criminal records than blue collar employees (81 per cent versus 66 per cent).
Similarly, those in high income earning households were significantly more likely to support fines than those in low income earning households (81 per cent versus 63 per cent).
"Australians appear to strongly support the decriminalisation of a small amount of marijuana for personal use, as has occurred in South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory," Dr Metherell said.
"Current moves toward cautioning and diversion for young and first offenders in minor marijuana cases in Victoria and New South Wales are also likely to have widespread public support."
The Newspoll also found most Australians favoured treating drug offenders rather than sentencing them to prison.
Seventy per cent of those surveyed supported treatment for those caught in possession of illegal drugs while 22 per cent favoured prison.
Dr Metherell said both young and old respondents to the survey had a strong preference for treatment.
While support for this approach was highest among the young, 66 per cent of those aged 50 years and over favoured treatment over incarceration.
"The message for governments is that Australians are caring and want to help people with drug problems, especially young and first time offenders," Dr Metherell said.
"Australians want their National Drug Strategy to focus on recovery not punishment and believe treatment is more effective than prison in dealing with drug offenders caught in possession but not involved in serious crime."
(C) 1999 Australian Associated Press