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Cannabis Cautioning Scheme Three Years On: An Implementation and Outcome Evaluation

NCJ Number
Joanne Baker; Derek Goh
Date Published
August 2004
60 pages
This report presents the results of an implementation and outcome evaluation study of the first 3 years of the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme, a New South Wales (NSW) drug diversion initiative.
Out of the recommendations of the 1999 New South Wales (NSW) Drug Summit, the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme was implemented in 2000 giving police the discretion to formally caution rather than charge adults detected for minor cannabis offenses. The Scheme is a part of the NSW Government’s program of drug diversion designed to divert first-time and minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system. Within the NSW Police, Drug and Alcohol Coordination (DAC), who is responsible for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the Scheme, was commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the implementation and outcomes for the first 3 years (2000 to 2003) of the Scheme. The evaluation included the review of program documentation, materials, and literature, and an analysis of existing NSW Police, NSW local courts, and Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) data. Report highlights include: (1) a total of 9,235 cautions were issued in the first 3 years; (2) most adults had been cautioned only once; (3) cautions had mostly been issued to young males; (4) cautions were predominantly issued for possession (96 percent); and (5) cautions represented less than one-third of all legal actions for minor cannabis offenses. Overall, the Scheme appeared to be operating reasonably well, appeared to be successful in diverting minor cannabis offenders from the court system, and appeared to have produced substantial time and cost efficiencies for both the police and the local courts. The report presents recommendations for improvement in the operation and outcomes of the Scheme which include broadening eligibility criteria, increased training, improve access to caution books and drug bags, improve police ability to estimate the weight of drugs, improve drug destruction procedures, improve offender identification procedures, and better communication between ADIS and police. References and appendix