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Cannabis Expiation Notices (CENs) in South Australia, 1997 to 2000

NCJ Number
Nichole Hunter
Date Published
November 2001
28 pages
This document examines Cannabis Expiation Notices (CENs) in South Australia from 1997 to 2000.
The CEN scheme was introduced in South Australia in April 1987 (under the Controlled Substances Amendment Act 1986). The scheme allows adults detected by police for “simple cannabis offenses” to be issued with an expiation notice. By paying the prescribed expiation fee within a certain time period the alleged offender is able to avoid court proceedings and a criminal conviction for that offense. When CENs were introduced the intention was to distinguish between private users and persons trafficking in cannabis. Examination of CEN data indicate that the number of notices issued per calendar year steadily declined over the period 1997 to 2000. The decline in the number of notices issued cannot be attributed solely to the fact that new forms were introduced in 1997, which more readily enabled the inclusion of more than one offense per notice. The reduction in the number of notices appears to reflect changes in the policing of cannabis offenses. This hypothesis was supported by analysis of trends in non-expiable cannabis offenses recorded by police over the same period. There was a similar decline in the number and proportion of recorded drug offenses involving cannabis. This suggests that broader changes in policing practices were resulting in a reduction in the number of CENs issued. The study also found that the characteristics of recipients of CENs remained largely unchanged. The majority of notices continued to be issued to males and to persons aged 18 to 24 years. The types of offenses most commonly included on CENs remained unchanged, with possession of cannabis and possession of equipment continuing to comprise the majority of offenses. The low expiation rate observed throughout the operation of the CEN scheme has continued despite the changes introduced in 1997 to increase payment options and provide greater explanation of the consequences of the failure to pay fines. 6 footnotes, 12 figures, 17 tables, bibliography, 2 appendices


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