Queensland: STOP Cannabis Arrests and Prosecutions Now

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Cannabis is a Health and Social Issue NOT a Criminal Issue!

It's Time to Change the Unjust Drug Laws 

STOP Cannabis Arrests and END Prosecutions of all Patients and Carers 

Queensland consistently leads the nation with the highest number of cannabis arrests in the country (30.7%). The Illicit Data Report for 2016-17 reported there were 23,836 cannabis arrests in Queensland. Over 90% of all cannabis arrests are consumers - patients, carers and other cannabis consumers, NOT the drug traffickers who were the objective target of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986.

Currently there are thousands of sick and dying patients and carers being dragged through the criminal justice system simply for growing or possessing cannabis for themselves or a loved one to use to relieve pain and suffering and to have a quality of life. You can read details of some of their cases below. 

The flawed corporate cannabis system in place in Australia is not about the health and welfare of the patients. Hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders, including children with serious medical conditions have been left behind without access to a lawful and affordable supply of cannabis. Products are unaffordable and under the convoluted federal/state application process less than 50 applications have been approved by Queensland Health, and some of these relate to multiple products for the same patient or are repeat prescriptions. 

Queensland Scheduling of Cannabis as a Dangerous Drug

Queensland also has some of the most draconian drug laws in the country with penalties ranging from a maximum of 15-25 years in prison. Cannabis is also scheduled as a dangerous drug in the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (QLD).

A person arrested for growing or possessing cannabis is charged under the Drugs Misuse Act with unlawfully producing a "dangerous drug" or unlawfully possessing a "dangerous drug." Parents are being charged with the more serious charge of "aggravated supply of a dangerous drug to a minor" which has a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, and as is the case with most cannabis arrests, people are also charged with multiple offences i.e possession of a thing used in connection with the commission of a crime (i.e. lights, fans) and unlawfully possessing a thing used to administer a dangerous drug (water pipe/vaporisers). The "dangerous drug" charges are recorded on a persons criminal history regardless of a receiving a no conviction recorded and can have long term consequences for employment and travel opportunities. 

Availability of Defences to Cannabis Charges

Despite the existence of a number of defences, people on low incomes and welfare are forced to plead guilty and end up with dangerous drug charges on their criminal history record because Legal Aid will not fund Not Guilty pleas and most people can't afford tens of thousands of dollars for a private lawyer. 

Section 4 of the Drugs Misuse Act defines unlawfully as: “unlawfully means without authorisation, justification or excuse by law." This definition clearly shows a person can lawfully produce or possess cannabis in any one of three ways. Justification and excuse are common law defences and Queensland's Criminal Code also provides for statutory defences such as justification and excuse - compulsion, extraordinary emergencies and other defences. 

DPP Public Interest Criteria: Cannabis Prosecutions Not in the Public Interest 

Our petition is also directed to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Michael Byrne QC. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) policy guidelines state that if a prosecution is not in the public interest then it should not be pursued, scarce resources should only be used to pursue cases worthy of prosecution and NOT wasted pursuing inappropriate cases. Police and DPP prosecutors must consider any lines of defences open and whether discretionary factors dictate that the matter should not proceed in the public interest.

CANNABIS PROSECUTIONS ARE NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

These are just some of the patients and parents who are being unfairly prosecuted through Queensland's criminal court system. Cannabis prosecutions waste hundred of millions of tax payers monies each year, monies which could be better spent on health, education and housing.  We are calling on the Attorney General, DPP and Police to use their discretion not to proceed with these cases on public interest grounds. 

JAMIE BLAKE - PROSECUTION NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST!

10.12.18 Sentence Hearing, Supreme Court, Rockhampton

This case is URGENT. Young parents Jamie and Stephanie have both been charged with "unlawfully" producing and possessing a "dangerous drug" and the more serious charge of "aggravated supply" of a "dangerous drug" to a minor, their 5 year old son Callum who has autism, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Police seized a few seedlings but did not seize any oil and have not produced a certificate of analysis to support the supply charge. Legal Aid did not challenge any police evidence and against Jamie's instructions to enter a not guilty plea, Legal Aid handed his matter straight up to the Supreme Court for sentencing.  As a consequence of being charged, Jamie's Blue Card was cancelled along with $140,000 in business contracts installing shade sales in pre-schools. Jamie has started a gofundme page to help raise $14,000 to pay for a private barrister to represent him at his sentencing.  The support from the public for this family, including hundreds of donations ranging from $5 upwards, shows this case is NOT in the Public Interest and should not proceed. 

DEB LYNCH- PROSECUTION NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST!

14.12.18: Mention in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court; DTBA 2019: Application & Appeal in the District Court Brisbane 

Deb is a terminally ill patient, grandmother and president of the MCUA. She was charged last year with "unlawfully" producing and possessing a dangerous drug, alleged to be 5 cannabis plants and cannabis.  She has pleaded Not Guilty to all charges as using cannabis is a medical necessity and will also be raising justification and excuse defences. Police have not presented their case as Deb has an appeal pending in the District Court against the decision of a Magistrate made in April 2018 to set aside subpoenas Deb served on Queensland Health in Nov 2017. After filing her outline in May, her appeal was delayed for several months after Queensland Health filed a delaying application, in which Deb has filed an affidavit in response. Deb's criminal trial has been adjourned until after the District Court proceedings are finalised. Despite her health Deb has been a tireless advocate and has helped run many educational workshops in QLD this year. She is currently in hospital again and should not have to deal with the stress of fighting these unjust criminal charges.  

MAGGIE O'RANCE - PROSECUTION NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST!

27.11.18: Goomeri Magistrates Court 

Maggie is a retired nurse and aged pensioner. She has been battling multiple medical conditions for the past 15 years. She was arrested and charged after 8 police officers raided her home. Police seized 6 dead seedlings and 0.3 gram of plant material alleged to be cannabis. After two adjournments she was offered no conviction or a fine and good behaviour bond IF she entered a Guilty Plea. She is pleading Not Guilty and using medical necessity as a defence. She is representing herself and hopes that her health holds up until after the court case.

There are other patients and parents being prosecuted in Queensland Courts on cannabis charges who also need the DPP to drop their charges. We will be adding more patient and carers to this list and posting updates with further information about their cannabis arrests and prosecutions throughout our campaign.  

TABLED PARLIAMENTARY PETITION  

Our Parliamentary online petition and paper petition signed by over 5,200 Queensland residents, and sponsored by Michael Berkman (Greens MP for Maiwar) has also been tabled in Queensland Parliament on 14 November. This petition has been referred to the Health Minister, Steven Miles for a response by 14 December. The QLD Government has made some changes to the state's medicinal cannabis laws but these changes don't help people who can't afford these products and certainly do not help those currently at risk of arrest or those being prosecuted in the courts now.

* On 13 Nov 2018 the Health Minister Steven Miles introduced a Health Bill to repeal the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016. The Bill proposes to remove all red tape at a state level and has been referred to the health committee for public submissions and an inquiry starting on 5 December (read more here).   

* On 14 Nov 2018 the Health Committee tabled a report approving changes to the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations 2017. ALL specialist medical practitioners can now prescribe cannabis without needing state approval and non-cancer pain was added to the conditions, however specialists still need approval from Queensland Health to prescribe cannabis for all other conditions including cancer pain and adult epilepsy, and GPs still need approval for all patients and all conditions. 

OUR CHANGE.ORG PETITION LETTER TO DECISION MAKERS

BY signing our petition the attached petition letter will be emailed to the Attorney General, Yvette D'Ath and all of the Decision Makers above. 

We request the Queensland Government STOP cannabis arrests.

We also want Police Prosecutions and the DPP to END court prosecutions of parents JAMIE BLAKE and his partner Stephanie, patients DEB LYNCH and MAGGIE O'RANCE and ALL other patients and carers currently being prosecuted in Queensland courts on cannabis charges, and emergency regulations introduced for the following:

* Possession of cannabis and permits to grow 6 cannabis plants in flower 

* Lab testing of our own cannabis and cannabis oils and tinctures 

* State licences for not for profits and micro-businesses to supply affordable cannabis

Thank you for your support

Medical Cannabis Advisory Group QLD Inc.

MCUA Australia Inc.



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