To look at places like Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., the world seems like it’s moving toward cannabis tolerance. But just remember that down under, the toilets flush the other way.

And in the realm of cannabis legalization, the Australian government is flushing in the surprising direction of increased penalties for cannabis possession, including a possible quadrupling of existing fines and jail times on par with heroin-related crimes.

VICE reports that cannabis law has been pretty chill in Australia for more than 25 years now, but that may change soon. Since 1987, the plant has been decriminalized. Possession of 25 grams or less could net a maximum penalty of a $500 (AUD) fine, though it was more common to get a slap on the wrist $125 one.

However, recently the state government has introduced laws into parliament which would hike that maximum penalty up to $2000 and impose a maximum prison sentence of two years. For context, the maximum prison sentence for heroin and ecstasy possession in Australia is also two years.

It seems lawmakers and even some regular folk have gotten in a tizzy ever since a headline making tragedy in 2012. Back then, teenager Lewis McPherson was murdered by another teen, Liam Humbles. Investigators discovered that Humbles was under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis at the time of the killing, and the Deputy Coroner of all people decided to make a statement, saying, “The maximum monetary penalty for the offences of possession, smoking and consumption of cannabis, cannabis resin and cannabis oil [should] be increased from $500 to a figure that reflects the deleterious effects that the consumption of those substances can have on the individual, especially the young.”

For some reason the main reaction to this coroner’s statement was not to tell him that his job was cut up corpses, not tell people how to change the law, but instead to embrace a new anti-cannabis sentiment in the country/continent. In addition to the harsher sanctions on weed smokers, there is also support for adding random drug checks and drug dogs into schools.

Some cooler heads have argued that more severe cannabis laws are likely to clog the judicial system and unjustly target certain communities. Australian legislator Tammy Franks expressed that the new policies would be “a war on the homeless, Aboriginal people and the poor.”

Photo via Flickr user Bernard Spragg. NZ