15 November 2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are eight-times more likely to be arrested for possession of Cannabis according to data from the Crime Statistic Agency (CSA).  

In response to a Question on Notice to the Police Minister, Anthony Carbines, the CSA numbers show persons arrested for the possession of cannabis who do not identify as being from an ATSI background are 50% more likely to receive a caution in Victoria. 

The CSA detail was provided after Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP David Ettershank asked the Minister a series of questions related to the years 2020-2021 including; how many people were arrested by Victoria Police for the possession of cannabis; how many of those arrested identified as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and; how many were offered a caution under the cannabis cautioning scheme. 

From 2020 – 2022, the CSA data shows that over that period 8,000-11,000 thousand arrests per annum in Victoria were purely for the personal possession of cannabis. NSW data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research demonstrates a similar pattern of systemic discrimination.

Research shows that First Nations people, and others from socially disadvantaged groups, are at greater risk of harm from the criminalisation of cannabis. 

Legalise Cannabis Victoria remains committed to ending the criminalisation of Victorians for the possession of cannabis. LCV will debate their Regulation of Personal (Adult Use) of Cannabis Bill 2023 on November 29th.  

The bill would allow adults to grow up to 6 plants per household, possess up to 50 grams and consume cannabis (but not in a public place). This bill will also allow gifting of up to 50 grams of cannabis between adults.

Quote attributable to Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO, Nerita Waight:  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have historically been overpoliced in Victoria for minor offences like drug possession. The Police Commissioner apologised for this sort of racist policing at the Yoorrook Justice Commission earlier this year, yet we are still waiting for words to translate into action.  

When people have an issue with drug use, that is a health issue, and it should be dealt with as a health issue – not a criminal matter, Victoria has already learnt this lesson under the most tragic of circumstances. Victoria should engage in drug reforms that reduce discriminatory policing practices and increase health and community support for those that need it. 

Quote attributable to Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP, David Ettershank: 

This is stigma and marginalisation in broad daylight. Arrests for cannabis possession have a profound effect on a person’s ability to access housing, employment, education, finance and sadly, this becomes much worse if you’re already marginalised because you identify as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.  

The government says it’s committed to removing the systemic discrimination and hyper-incarceration of first nations people but it’s clearly not working. Personal possession of a small amount of cannabis is a victimless crime – let’s change this law. 


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