Bringabong Babes Emerald (left), of England, and Dionne May (right), of Nimbin, dancing during the MardiGrass law reform rally.
Bringabong Babes Emerald (left), of England, and Dionne May (right), of Nimbin, dancing during the MardiGrass law reform rally. David Nielsen

Drug laws discussed and debated

AMID the bong tossing and joint rolling, there was actually a serious side to the MardiGrass weekend.

And while it lacked the visual appeal of watching contestants hurl a smoking apparatus half the length of a football field, the discussion regarding cannabis users ending up before the courts was arguably of more consequence.

With more than 10,800 illegal drug possession charges brought before NSW local courts in 2008, Lismore solicitor Steve Bolt gave two weekend talks at the Nimbin Town Hall on exactly what the law says when it comes to cannabis.

“The purpose of MardiGrass has always been, despite the celebratory character of the event, to educate people about what their rights are,” he said.

“It’s central to what we try to do.”

Mr Bolt, who has spent about 15 years dealing with the legal consequences of cannabis use, said there was frequently a lot of misinformation regarding drug laws.

“The law is a complex beast about anything,” he said.

“A lot of people believe the law is tougher than it is, and a lot of peoplebelieve the law is softer than it is.”

Mr Bolt discussed everything from arrest to sentencing, including what amount of possession of cannabis becomes supply and what amount of cannabis use relates to a caution, as opposed to a court appearance, are discretionary, and will only be given by police in limited circumstances.

He was hopeful the sessions would keep people away from the criminal justice system where possible.

“In terms of the information aspect of MardiGrass, hopefully people will go away with a bit more knowledge and will prevent them being arrested and charged when they don’t have to be,because they’ll have more info about how the law actually operates,” he said.



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