Fiona Patten’s Cannabis Inquiry Motion Statement

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:11:51): I rise to speak on the motion moved by Ms Patten today and to note the impact of the illegal trade involving cannabis. She also talks about the call for a committee inquiry into the prevention of youth using cannabis, the implementation of education programs on the dangers of drug use and the prevention of criminal activity relating to the illegal cannabis trade. Speaking as an ex-Victoria Police member as of November last year, I think I have got pretty recent and significant advice and a valuable contribution to make to this motion, in particular with regard to the use of cannabis, the trafficking of cannabis and the associated offenders, offending and court processes. In a nutshell I can tell you that as a police member it is an extremely time-consuming process when we are investigating hydroponic set-ups and the trafficking of cannabis, as you would likely know, Acting President Bourman. From the time that we get intelligence to the arrest, if there is an arrest, it can often be up to six months and can sometimes consume many, many police officers for the end result of dismantling a hydro set-up in a house, which is a good thing.

That can often lead to other houses and so forth and so on. The investigation continues. It is very time-consuming. Yes, we are taking cannabis off the streets and the cash out of the hands of the traffickers and the organised crime groups, but as Mr Limbrick said before, quite often the middle person is the one that we find that we arrest or the one who has their fingerprints on it, and they are the one who cops the brunt of it all whilst the organised crime groups get away with it. There have been many advancements in police and the so-called legislative processes as we continue with what people like to refer to as the war on drugs. This includes the cannabis cautioning system, which I think has been a good system. I am not too sure of the results as yet regarding harm reduction from cannabis use with that cautioning process, but it does give police an alternative avenue in prosecuting mainly the youth who have been caught with cannabis. It is not unusual for persons who are found in possession of small amounts of cannabis to be diverted through to these programs, and even sometimes the discretion used by police has resulted in no charges or no offending being reported. The traffickers, on the other hand, are often more hard to locate, arrest and prosecute.

These are the ones who, as I said, are getting away with it. Hydroponic set-ups have not only a safety issue but also private rental issues going on. A lot of the time the organised crime groups set up private rentals with people, unbeknownst to them, with false identification. They set up and then completely destroy their homes, putting in electrical bypasses, stealing electricity and causing an incredibly dangerous fire hazard. I think you mentioned, Mr Limbrick, the Smeaton hydroponic set-up. I believe that was one of the last ones that I went to and helped dismantle and investigate. From what I understand I do not think there has been any arrest out of that one either. This is the issue that we face: the time consumption and the fact that there are just no results at the end of it. Investigations can often run into many, many months from the day of the warrant execution and, like I said, can consume many police officers over many hours. Derryn Hinch has often said that he thinks it is ridiculous watching big, burly cops with guns on their hips arresting plants. Sometimes I tend to agree with his comments. Aside from the time consumption, we should also consider the potential economic benefits of taking away the cannabis industry from the criminals. That goes without saying. Just imagine the taxation revenue that could be taken and used in prevention and educational programs on the effects of drug use. To sum up, keeping it brief, we support this motion and look forward to seeing further investigation into the opportunities for another avenue in the so-called war against drugs.