Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Cannabis

Cannabis is a drug obtained from the leaves, stems, flowers and seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. The active psychotropic ingredient in cannabis is THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Cannabis is generally found in three forms. Marijuana, a mix of dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, is the most common but least potent form of cannabis. Hashish, dried cannabis resin, has a higher concentration of THC and produces stronger effects. Hashish oil, a thick oily liquid, is the most powerful form of cannabis, however this form of cannabis is rarely found in Australia.

Cannabis is a depressant that has some mild hallucinogenic properties. As a depressant it slows the activity of the central nervous system.

The effects of cannabis are unpredictable. The drug's typical effect is to make the user feel relaxed and less inhibited. It causes increased appetite and bloodshot eyes and can affect sensory perception. Cannabis can affect coordination, reduce attention span and cause short term memory loss. Users may lose track of their thoughts or of a conversation. Heavier doses can cause confusion, excitement or anxiety. Users may have hallucinations.

Chronic cannabis use can cause respiratory illnesses such as lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. Some heavy users lose energy and motivation and experience a deterioration in memory, concentration and ability to learn new things. Cannabis psychosis, similar to schizophrenia, can occur in vulnerable individuals.

Cannabis is generally smoked either as cigarettes or through a water pipe. It can be ingested as an ingredient in food.

The cultivation, possession, use and supply of cannabis is illegal throughout Australia as is its importation.

Some states have moved towards decriminalising the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use or the diversion of offenders to education or treatment programs. Offenders in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory may be issued with an infringement. In Victoria, first time minor offenders are cautioned and referred to drug education, while Western Australia combines both methods by allowing those apprehended with less than 30g of cannabis or two cannabis plants grown at home the opportunity of paying a fine or attending an education session.

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia and generally easily available. In a 2004 survey, it was reported that one in three Australians aged 14 years and over had used cannabis at least once in their life, with more than half a million indicating use in the last 12 months.

Cannabis is produced in most areas of Australia with a trend in recent years towards the use of hydroponics. It is now suspected that hydroponics is the most common method of cultivation in the domestic market. Growers believe that hydroponics produce a better yield, reduce the chances of detection and mitigate seasonal climate changes. There is a level of cannabis importation from countries including the Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Organised crime groups, including outlaw motorcycle gangs are involved in the cultivation and distribution of cannabis within Australia. According to the Australian Crime Commission, there has been a noticeable increase in the involvement of Vietnamese crime groups in recent years.

Dope, pot, mull, grass, weed, gunja and yandi (among others).

Recent publications

Recent events