Hansard debates

Search Hansard
Search help


Legislative Assembly

31 August 2011
Second Reading


  I consider that this bill is compatible with  the Charter  of Human Rights and
  Responsibilities Act 2006.
   Hon. Mary Wooldridge, MP
  Minister for Mental Health

Second reading

Ms WOOLDRIDGE (Minister for Mental Health) -- I move: That this bill be now read a second time. The Baillieu government is committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of all Victorians. Before the election of the coalition government by the Victorian people last year a pledge was made to prohibit retailers from displaying and selling bongs, bong components and bong kits. This bill delivers on that commitment. It has long been a contradiction in policy that cannabis is an illicit substance in Victoria and yet one of the
Page 2975
commonly used mechanisms for consuming cannabis has been widely available for purchase. Thirty per cent of Victorians aged 14 years and over reported use of cannabis at some stage in their lifetime, making cannabis the most widely used illicit drug in Victoria. Recent cannabis use is highest in young people aged 14-24 years and those aged 25-34 years. This is particularly concerning when research has also identified that an estimated one in every three regular cannabis users may develop a drug addiction. The health risks of cannabis use are well known. In 2010 ambulance attendances in metropolitan Melbourne relating to cannabis increased by 9 per cent from 2009, with 887 attendances. Cannabis-related hospital admissions also increased in that time and half of all Victorian drug-related arrests were for cannabis use and possession, an increase on the previous year. There are also increased risks to personal mental health from cannabis use, with research indicating that cannabis use is associated with increased risk in the development of mental illness. Research published earlier this year finds that cannabis plays a causal role in the development of schizophrenia and psychosis disorders in some substance users. The research paper titled Cannabis Use and Earlier Onset of Psychosis outlined that stopping or reducing cannabis use could prevent psychosis in some people. For young people there is a greater likelihood of developing a mental health problem such as depression, psychosis and anxiety if they initiate into cannabis use early in life and use at high levels. Adolescence is already known as a period of high risk for the development of mental illness, so it is therefore critical to make every effort to restrict exposure to illicit drugs such as cannabis at this time. It is also known that using a bong -- or cannabis water pipe -- is the most common method for consuming cannabis in regular cannabis users aged 12-17 years. This bill will restrict access to this method by banning the sale of bongs through retail outlets. Banning the sale of bongs will reinforce the message that it is illegal to smoke cannabis and further discourage its use. Attention is now drawn to the detailed provisions of the bill. The bill amends the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981. The amendments to this act will commence on 1 January 2012. Definitions The amendments to the act focus on cannabis water pipes, commonly known as bongs, and hookahs. The bill bans the sale of bongs and bong components, which are individual parts that can be used to create a bong. Bong kits will also be prohibited from sale and display. By banning the display and sale of bongs, bong components and bong kits a consistent response is being adopted with regards to the availability of drug paraphernalia. Ice pipes and cocaine kits, both apparatus used to consume illicit drugs, have already been banned from sale in Victoria. A hookah is differentiated from a bong generally by its use, which is for the inhalation of a mixture of tobacco, molasses, fruit and flavouring. However, hookahs are generally larger in size than bongs and often have more than one hose and hose opening, as they are commonly used for communal smoking with a number of participants. Offences It will be an offence to display and sell bongs, bong components and bong kits in retail outlets. A retail outlet for the purposes of this legislation includes markets as well as shops. Currently, bongs are widely available at a large number of retail outlets across Victoria, with retailers displaying shelves of bongs in their windows for sale throughout the city and our suburbs. By making the display and sale of bongs illegal they will be removed from the shelves of shops and out of shop windows. Bongs will no longer be visible nor available as a retail item. This will stop the confusing message to young people that while it is okay to display and sell equipment used for smoking cannabis, it is illegal to smoke cannabis. Hookahs It is not the intention of this bill to restrict the sale of the subset of water pipes such as hookahs and shishas that are used for smoking tobacco products. These pipes, often used by Arabic and Middle Eastern communities for cultural purposes, will be exempt from the ban, though there will be a limit on the number that can be displayed for sale in retail outlets.
Page 2976
It will be an offence to display for sale more than three hookahs in a retail outlet. The decision to restrict the display of hookahs was made to limit the visibility of water pipes to the general public as a means of reducing the uptake of tobacco smoking and in response to the health risks associated with it. A number of representatives from Middle Eastern and Arabic communities were consulted in the preparation of this bill, particularly in relation to the limit on the display of hookahs, and there was support for the restriction on the display of hookahs. Enforcement Victoria Police will enforce the amendments to this act in line with their existing powers under the act in relation to other drug paraphernalia. Communication A communication strategy has been developed to provide information to retailers, consumers and the general public on the new offences. This will also be an opportunity to reinforce to young people, families and the broader community the facts about the harms that can be caused by smoking cannabis. This bill delivers on an election commitment by the Baillieu government. The bill demonstrates the government's clear commitment to preventing drug uptake and abuse and sending clear messages to the community that illicit drug use is harmful to health and wellbeing and will not be supported by the government. I commend the bill to the house. Debate adjourned on motion of Mr DONNELLAN (Narre Warren North). Debate adjourned until Wednesday, 14 September.