There is increasing international interest in alternatives to the use of arrest for minor drug offences. While Australia has been at the forefront in the provision of diversionary programs for minor drug offences there remain key gaps in knowledge about the cost-effectiveness of different approaches. Here we set out to assess the cost-effectiveness of cannabis cautioning schemes whereby police refer minor cannabis use and possession offenders to education and/or treatment instead of arresting and charging them.
These results indicate that after matching on a range of relevant characteristics there were no differences across groups in the change in self-reported cannabis use days, but cannabis cautioning was less costly than charge/arrest. These results add to the evidence about the efficacy and desirability of alternatives to arrest both within Australia and abroad.
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