Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Criminal Justice

School

School of Law and Justice

Faculty

Business and Law

First Advisor

Dr. Pamela Henry

Abstract

Cannabis is currently the most frequently used illicit drug in Australia. Research has revealed a range of health, economic, criminal and social consequences associated with the drug. The widespread use of cannabis and the consequences associated with its use has ignited strong political and social debate as to what response should be taken to minimise the harmful effects of the drug. In order to reduce the harms associated with cannabis, and in line with the national harm minimisation framework, the Western Australia (WA) Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN) scheme commenced in 2004. The introduction of the CIN scheme as part of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 (WA) aimed to divert minor, first-time cannabis offenders into cannabis education sessions. As police are gatekeepers to the criminal justice system they play an important role in the diversion of cannabis offenders away from the justice system. As such, police officers’ experience with the CIN scheme is a valuable source of information to guide well informed cannabis related policy and legislation. Despite the significance of research related to police officers’ experiences with cannabis policy and legislation, a review of the literature reveals that the existing body of research has neglected regional police officers’ understanding of and experience with cannabis legislation. As a result, this qualitative research seeks to explore regional police officers’ perceptions towards, and experience with, the WA CIN scheme. Developing an understanding of the CIN scheme from the perspective and experience of police officers is essential if we are to begin developing and implementing more effective cannabis policies. This research is focused on Mid West–Gascoyne District police officers’ experience with the CIN scheme. A phenomenological approach has been adopted so the focus remains on police officers’ lived experience. Data was collected through semistructured interviews with ten operational police officers. Analysis reveals that police officers’ experience with the CIN scheme centres around three key themes: their knowledge of the scheme, the surrounding circumstances they are faced with when implementing the scheme, and their perceptions of cannabis as a drug and of cannabis users.

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