A 16-year-old Orange teenager who has been heavily using cannabis since she was 14 was told by magistrate Terry Lucas she has to find a way to stop before she suffers long-term mental effects of the drug.
“Quite simply the possession and selling of this drug is illegal, and it is up to you to stop,” Mr Lucas said.
The magistrate then issued a further warning to the teenager.
“As you get older your teeth will fall out, your skin will be sallow and you are going to ruin your life,” he said.
The teenager’s Legal Aid solicitor Michael Bladwell told the court his client had been trying to make her own way in life after becoming estranged from her mother and was living in rented accommodation with a friend.
After entering a guilty plea to the court on behalf of the teenager Mr Bladwell said she had been trying to cut down her use and wanted to continue learning so she could attend the Orange TAFE campus and become a hairdresser.
He said his client was being supported by Juvenile Justice while on a probationary order.
As Mr Lucas was about to deliver a penalty for the possession of cannabis offence, a woman stood up in the back of the courtroom and said she was prepared to take the teenager to the Cannabis Clinic in Orange to free her from her dependence on the drug.
“This is what she needs. I will drive her there everyday myself if that is what it takes,” the woman told the court.
“I want to direct her on the right path because at 16 you don’t always make the right choices about your life.”
Mr Lucas thanked the woman for her show of support for the teenager.
Mr Lucas then told the accused she was being taken advantage of by people selling cannabis in Orange and it was a big problem in this city.
“In an afternoon you can expect to pay anything from between $10 to $50 a time I am told,” Mr Lucas said.
Due to the small quantity of cannabis detected on the accused when she was arrested she was given a cannabis caution from the court and ordered to pay a $20 fine.
“If you can afford to buy cannabis you can afford to give some money to the government,” Mr Lucas said.
Alcohol bigger problem: expert
ORANGE drug expert Dr Rod MacQueen says while he understands concerns over the use of marijuana in the community, alcohol is the number one drug that leads to far more problems including impulsive crimes and violence.
“There needs to be rational discussions in our community about the use of alcohol,” he said.
Dr MacQueen said marijuana use could often be associated with risk-taking behaviour.
“It is seen as naughty and one step further on from drinking too much alcohol,” he said.
However, in his experience people who regularly use marijuana have a history of childhood trauma.
He said young people often turned to marijuana to deal with life stressors that can include rejection and other anxieties associated with not fitting into society.
He said, however, there was still an unknown element of why certain people chose certain drugs as their drug of choice.
Dr MacQueen said it was unfortunate that radio shock jocks were demonising anyone who used marijuana and other drugs. He said they were not taking into consideration the bigger picture of why people were turning to drugs to help them get through the day.
“It is not simplistic, it is complex with many people who use being the victims of unpleasant violence and sexual abuse,” he said.
“For others it is about proving they have status and money.
“So we are now seeing the use in 50 and 60-year-olds not just 18 year olds.”
Dr MacQueen said data also suggested that many people who used marijuana were already part of a methadone program.
He said anyone who smoked marijuana and held down a job needed to be aware the drug stayed in their system for a considerably longer period than alcohol - up to several weeks due to the drug’s absorption nature.
Dr MacQueen said the self-referral service offered at The Lyndon Community facility on Bloomfield campus was used by many people trying to get themselves off marijuana.
He said online cannabis treatment options were also available to help people.