Greens propose to legalise recreational cannabis. Under a Greens proposal, Australians could soon be enjoying cannabis for recreational use. It proposes a new government agency to oversee legal cannabis. It would be the wholesaler to licenced retailers and raise much needed taxes for the country. This way the government retains full control of its sale.
Greens propose to legalise recreational cannabis
The Greens is the third largest party behind Labor and Liberals. It is the first time a major Australian political party has backed such a proposal. The Greens proposal will also allow people to grow up to six plants at home for personal use.
Its purpose is harm minimisation and sales would be the same way as tobacco and alcohol. Greens leader Richard Di Natale says Australia needs to treat cannabis as a health issue not a criminal one. He said prohibition was not working and this was the only sensible response to the failed policy. Cannabis will incur GST as well as excise tax.
Stats stack up
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) one in eight Australians smoked cannabis daily. Statistics from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, report there were 79,643 cannabis-related arrests in the 2015 – 2016. A 6 percent increase from the previous year.
Some studies show long-term cannabis use can cause depression and adverse psychological affects for people predisposed to mental illness. But an AIHW study shows the effects of tobacco and alcohol were much worse. A study released earlier this year shows that tobacco causes 9 percent of non-fatal and fatal diseases in Australians. And, alcohol accounted for 4.6 percent. Compare this to 2.3 percent of diseases caused by illegal drugs with 0.1 percent attributed to cannabis.
Present Australian Cannabis Laws Harmful
As a former doctor, Di Natale said the present laws were causing further harm. He said they prevent people from getting help and makes people turn to the black market for their supply. The Greens proposal reduces the health risks. It aims to protect people from prosecution for minor offences. This way they do not end up with a criminal record that can affect the rest of their lives.
Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodak welcomed the Greens proposal. He said the current war on drugs has not changed anything and cannabis was easily available. He also said it unnecessarily turned people into criminals. Police should be following up on more serious crimes. The current laws are making some criminals very rich.
A 2016 survey by Essential Vision howed 47 percent of people want cannabis decriminalised and 39 percent opposed it. Support went up to 55 percent if the government were to tax and regulate it in the same way as tobacco and alcohol.
Arguments for cannabis legalisation
With Australia’s current laws doing nothing to reduce cannabis use, there are calls for a change in tactics. So, what are the arguments for legalising cannabis?
Crime reduction and the costs to the public’
Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer said the current laws had little impact on cannabis use. Much of the workload on the justice system comes from drug related crime. He said that while police were better equipped today, they were making little headway.
Countries such as Portugal and Switzerland have relaxed their attitude and laws. They listened to the opinion of their communities. And, it is working. It has reduced the serious drug problems over the last 20 years. Where, in Sweden, the drug laws are punitive the deaths from drug overdose are high and not improving.
Palmer said that it was time Australian leaders approached the drug situation in a different way. The government is relying on prohibitive laws yet the drug market continues to expand.
Legalising recreational cannabis reduces crime. It also reduces the cost to the public while freeing up the police force to pursue serious crime instead.
Australia’s current cannabis laws aim for harm reduction through prohibition. But, this is not working with more Australians than ever using cannabis. In actual fact, these laws are part of the problem. A criminal record for minor cannabis possession charges for personal possession harms people. Legal cannabis removes this stigma. No longer would a criminal record for minor offences affect people’s careers and lives in other ways.
Add tax revenue to the coffers
By legalising cannabis, the Australian government could raise much needed taxes for the country. Four years ago, the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) estimated legal cannabis could raise $3.6 billion over four years from legal cannabis. They based the estimate on 25 percent excise plus GST. The PBO based its figures on charging $3500 for licencing fees with annual renewals of up to $2300. But, there are a lot of unknowns with it unable to judge how popular cannabis is in the market and its price.
Arguments against cannabis legislation
Those against legalising cannabis argue it will increase crime. They also worry it will increase cannabis use, car accidents and reduce public health. Others express concern it is a gateway drug but this was proven incorrect many years ago. Usually people use alcohol and tobacco before ever using cannabis. So there are legal gateway drugs rather than cannabis if you believe the gateway theory.
There is no evidence legal cannabis increases its use. But some studies show there is an increase in health risks, such as:
- heavy cannabis use can increase psychotic episodes that can develop into schizophrenia
- driving while stoned can increase the risk of crashing while driving a vehicle
- increasing the risk of young people becoming dependent on cannabis
- teenage pot use can affect young users with poorer academic outcomes.
Australia dragging its feet about cannabis
Cannabis is legal in Uruguay, Spain and in nine states of the United States. And, Canada is on track to legalise it this summer. Other countries like Portugal take the view it is a health rather than a criminal issue. They decriminalised cannabis in 2001 with great success. New Zealand could be the first country in the region to legalise cannabis. They propose a referendum to gauge its people’s thoughts on the subject.
Liberal Government health Minister Greg Hunt was the first to put down the Greens proposal saying cannabis is a gateway drug. And leader of the Labor opposition Bill Shorten accused the Greens of using its policy as click bait.
So, it seems that cannabis legalisation could still be some time off with the major political parties dismissing it out of hand. They refuse to listen to the people and experts and still want to waste public money to ‘wage a war’ against drugs.