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Director of Public Prosecutions Remarks: Simple Possession of Cannabis - in respect of the offence under Misuse of Drugs Act 1972 section 6(2)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I have today issued to the Commissioner of Police the guidance for formal cautions for simple possession of cannabis.

As I stated recently, in 2016 Parliament passed the Police and Criminal Evidence Amendment Act 2016 which made provision for the Director of Public Prosecutions to give a guidance for a formal police caution for appropriate offences. Thereafter, I announced that I would consider a guidance for a police caution policy in respect of simple possession of cannabis.  I stated that I would welcome input from the community. Also, at that time I reached out to various agencies for their views on a police caution policy for simple possession of cannabis.

I am pleased formally to release the guidance for a caution policy today as the Police and Criminal Evidence Amendment Act 2016 was brought into operation yesterday by the Honourable Attorney-General by way of a notice in the Official Gazette.

I am grateful to everyone who made a submission and I am grateful to the committee in the Department of Public Prosecutions who assisted with the guidance.

The submissions ranged along the spectrum of how a police caution policy should be structured from a blanket caution for all cannabis to having a limited number of cautions, and to having some conditions in order to obtain a caution. Other aspects were urged such as reducing the number of people being convicted, preventing the harmful impact of drugs on society, preventing initiation and use of drugs in youth in order to protect the developing brain, protecting minors from drug use which leads to drug abuse as an adult, preventing unintentional accidents, preventing diversion of funds to drugs and to promoting health education generally. 

The key points of the guidance for the police caution policy for a person arrested for simple possession of cannabis involves a simple matrix system and are as follows:

  1. The weight of the cannabis must be under three (3) grams;
  2. An offender must admit to possession of the cannabis;
  3. An offender must not have other drugs on them at the time of the seizure/search;
  4. Offenders under 18 years of age will be referred to Child & Family services;
  5. On a first and second arrest for possession of cannabis, a first caution and second caution respectively may be granted;
  6. On a third arrest for possession, a caution may be granted on the following conditions:
  7. A person will be bailed from the police station to return to the police station 3 months later – such time to be used to complete some tasks;
    1. An assessment must be made by BARC;
    2. An offender must undergo a minimum of 12 hours of drug counselling;
    3. An offender should pass a drug test.
  8. If the conditions are met, then a third caution will be issued – otherwise the offender will be sent to court for prosecution.
  9. On a fourth arrest within 2 years of a third caution, the offender will not be eligible for a fourth caution;
  10. Upon two (2) years passing from the date of the third caution, an offender is re-eligible for a first caution.

It is a pleasure to release formally this guidance for a caution policy for cannabis. It is designed to steer offenders away from the courts with all the consequences arising from convictions, builds in a 3 strikes policy, and involves counselling and drug testing. The policy is designed to allow our people to pursue their life and career objectives and to be productive, healthy and successful members of the community.  

Cannabis Caution policy guidelines