You can’t walk through the quaint little hippie town of Nimbin in NSW and not be confronted with its flagship slogan, “The Law is the Crime”. While its population is small, the town has built its enormous reputation in the way it advocates for the legalisation of the use and cultivation of cannabis.
Many of the town’s thriving businesses owe a large part of their success to the open weed trade that has seen the town crowned “Australia’s weed Mecca”, providing positive tourism attractions that span many demographics, age groups and cultures.
Having recently spent a few days entrenched alongside the locals in the heart of the community, this writer noticed the popular catchphrase was made all the more significant following a spate of arrests that have the community poised for protest. The main source of unrest centres around a group of young adults referred to as “The Laneboys”.
The Laneboys are a group of 11 young men who are apparently directly responsible for supplying the town with a great bulk of its main export – arguably the town’s biggest green grocers. The band of dope-dealing locals were recently swooped down upon with tactical precision in a massive operation known as Strike Force Cuppa.
The six-month covert surveillance operation culminated in a coordinated strike of 50 cops with one mission: to disassemble the ring of “dangerous gangsters” and cut the head of the snake of Nimbin’s renowned weed market. It resulted in a five kilogram seizure of pot as well as $55,000 in cash.
Heralded by law enforcement as a hardened criminal syndicate, The Laneboys were slapped with a range of charges, the most controversial being consorting, AKA the infamous ‘bikie laws’ that give police the powers to prevent individuals – with or without a criminal record – from communicating with a convicted crim. If a person ignores this law, they can face up to five years’ imprisonment.
What that means for The Laneboys is that anyone who communicates with them could be looking at prison time if law enforcement sees the communication as “unfit”. In a further effort by the fuzz to clean up the streets of Nimbin, the condition of the boys’ bail means that none of them are allowed within a 15km radius of Nimbin.
Community members are working furiously to protest these rulings. The Laneboys are described by most as peaceful, honest and community minded – helping to stem the flow of hard narcotics while also being integral economic contributors to the tight-knit community.
The implications of the arrests, however, are hardly a matter contained to the small shire.
The fact that police have the discretionary power to prohibit people from associating with loved ones is alarming, to say the least. There’s literally no limit on who can and can’t be charged under the consorting law, as per the definition of the legislation.
So whether you live in the weed mecca of Australia and are providing what is seen as a valuable service to the community by most, or are a young Sydney stoner with a fresh baggie and epic plans for the weekend, beware: you could be charged with consorting too.
If you take it from a concerned Nimbin local, they’ll tell you themselves, “The law is the crime.”