WA Admits It’s Not Sure What Its Laws Are

The West Australian reported on the outcome of a case brought against a gift shop retailer in Innaloo. The retailer had been charged with possession of a ‘synthetic cannabinomimetic’ in mid-2013. Analysis of the product found it to contain UR-144.

The defendant received a 12-month suspended jail sentence and a $25,000 fine. Mark Andrews defended the case on behalf of his client. He is quoted in the West Australian saying, “No criticism is leveled at the State for this because it was an uncertain area of the law… So of course if our legislatures and prosecutors and courts are somewhat confused about the true position, one can readily understand how someone like Ms Hill could likewise be led into error in relation to whether a substance is prohibited or not.”

Apparently, we are to take from this case that the prosecution were a bit confused as to how to show that the defendant was guilty. Yet it seems that her guilt was assumed, there was just confusion as to what law she broke and how to prove it.

The range of laws that have been introduced to try and prohibit the use of these products has been done in an almost reflexive manner. There is an inherent assumption that if people are using these things to alter their consciousness (aka: get high), then they must be a risk to individual and community health and safety. It is rather telling that a World Health Report review into UR-144’s abuse potential states, “Considering the close pharmacological resemblance of UR-144 to THC, abuse of UR- 144 is likely to occur.”

Without sufficient evidence to show the potential for harm from UR-144, the WHO believe that because it is used in a way similar to cannabis (or at least, THC in cannabis), then it ought to be considered to have a potential for abuse.

As with any activity people enjoy, there are those who abuse cannabis and forget other responsibilities or desires. However, there seems to be no need to prove whether or not prohibiting use can reduce those risks. And there’s certainly no analysis of how successful prohibition has been at reducing that potential for abuse.

There is significant evidence to show that this policy of prohibition exacerbates the situation, causing more harms.

The WA retailer has been punished by a government that doesn’t even know what its policy is, can’t prove that it reduces harm and doesn’t analyse its success in protecting community health and safety.

We’re not trying to suggest that a market should have no protections or that products with unknown risks should be sold. We have argued for a regulated market for many years and pointed out to governments across Australia that most people who use a social tonic do so only because they don’t want to interact with a criminal market to obtain cannabis.