Re-thinking how we police cannabis

Published 03 July 2013

marijuana_smallThe University of New England is collaborating with the National Drug Research Institute and Curtin University to research the ‘social supply’ of cannabis, where suppliers broker, facilitate or sell for little or no monetary gain to friends and acquaintances.

The research, which is part of an international study looking at social supply of cannabis, is taking place in Armidale, Perth, and Melbourne. The UNE team is being lead by Professor John Scott and Dr Cary Bennett.

Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit drug in Australian and is responsible for the vast majority of illicit drug apprehensions made by law enforcement. There are a number of ways of accessing cannabis for recreational use, including supply through everyday social activities and networks. Research has shown that many people accessing cannabis are often otherwise law-abiding and not involved with organised drug dealers or drug dealing with its associated risks.

The exploration of social supply and attempts to understand the complexity and experience of ‘drug dealing’ among young cannabis users has the capacity to inform drug legislation and the administration of criminal justice system in a way that can have huge impacts for the way drug offences are dealt with across the criminal justice system.

Professor Scott stated that “Scoring drugs from ‘friends, as opposed to seedier drug dealers, allows drug user to maintain their own sense of respectability and security. Social supply, is as much about connecting and gaining social status as it is about drug use or selling for financial gain.”

Dr Bennett added “Australian retail markets for most illicit drugs, including cannabis, are based significantly upon friendships.”

They point out that Australian research has found that almost two-thirds of regular cannabis users obtained their cannabis from a friend of family member, not a dealer. Of people who grow cannabis almost 50 per cent  say that they gave away some of the cannabis to others for free.

The researchers are looking for people who use cannabis, are aged between 18-30 years old and are interested in helping to understand the processes involved in the social supply of cannabis in an anonymous interview. You don’t have to be a supplier of cannabis in order to be eligible to participate.