Cannabis legalisation might be imminent
With the elections just around the corner, the Greens have laid out a bold plan: Introduce a cannabis legalisation bill for New South Wales (NSW) within the first 100 days of the election. If passed, NSW residents will be able to possess and grow cannabis without governmental interference.
The Greens have been avid supporters of cannabis legalisation for a while now. For example, last year, Richard Di Natalie voiced his support for cannabis legalisation in a proposal to make the drug legal throughout the country.
Current events don’t stop at the Greens’ support for cannabis legalisation in NSW, as the Australian Capital Territory is also set to debate a legalisation bill quite soon. In fact, that particular bill was introduced last year by Yerrabi Michal Patterson, a member of the Labor party, which shows unity in the cannabis debate.
Such unity in agendas are rare in politics, and when they do occur, chances are that real change is near. In neighbouring New Zealand, for example, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of the Labour party set a referendum on cannabis legalisation for 2020.
Perhaps the global climate of cannabis legalisation is key here, as well as the significant increases in public support for legalisation. Cannabis use around the world is also ingreasing. Whatever the reasons behind these shifting policy proposals, supporters must be quite pleased with the way things are going.
The latest Greens announcement suggests a hard, consistent push for cannabis legalisation throughout Australia, not just NSW. Perhaps with New Zealand’s 2020 referendum fast approaching, the entire region might experience the effects of such a push.
For now though, what’s certain is that NSW residents may soon be able to use cannabis freely.
The Greens’ proposal
Within 100 days of the election, the Greens will introduce their plan to legalise cannabis in NSW. The plan will:
- Allow the purchase of cannabis from stores, by any resident 18 years or older upon proof of age with identification;
- Allow the growth of up to six cannabis plants at home;
- Allow cannabis use in public, wherever smoking cigarettes is authorised;
- Generate $200 million in revenue per year for the state, according to estimates. This will result from licensing fees, goods and services taxes, and criminal justice savings.
With such freedoms to purchase, possess, and plant cannabis, regulations will be needed. The Greens will also move to establish an NSW cannabis agency after a parliamentary inquiry into the legalisation.
Reasoning behind the Greens’ move
David Shoebridge, the Greens MP (Member of Parliament) and spokesman for Justice and Policing, expressed the view that criminalising cannabis use “makes no sense”. He also cited the fact that over one-third of Australians have tried cannabis.
Criminalising cannabis costs money. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the most widely used illicit substance in the country is cannabis. Also, mosts cannabis arrests are for possession, not trafficking. For example, according to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, 91 percent of cannabis arrests in 2016 were of consumers. That was increase from 2013-2014, which saw 87 percent of cannabis arrests being for consumption.
Mr. Shoebridge points out that criminalisation amounts to a waste. The criminal justice system spends significant portions of their budget fighting cannabis crimes, only for the majority of arrests to be for consumers. The courts then spend more money adjudicating these cases, leading to billions of dollars being spent on cannabis-related arrests.
Mr. Shoebridge cites the $200 million in savings from the justice system — if cannabis is legalised — and other revenue from legalisation as enough to improve other sectors of the community. The funds will be used to improve:
- Schools, in general; Prevention and harm reduction in schools from a $25 million allocation;
- Hospitals; Drug and alcohol programs, mostly in rural NSW.
Mr. Shoebridge also pointed out that cannabis legalisation remove control of the market from criminal organizations. It would allow quality and concentration to be easily determined by the consumer. Such a move would allow for users to be more educated about cannabis and its risks, as well as to be sure that the drug is up to a certain regulated standard.
Is the time right?
There is currently a cannabis legalisation trend across the globe. Medical cannabis has become widely accepted, and recreational cannabis has also been legalised in several places in recent years.
For example, 33 states in the United States of America, along with the District of Columbia (D.C.), have legalised medical cannabis– 10 of those states and D.C. have legalised cannabis for recreational use. Uruguay and Canada have also legalised recreational cannabis.
Several other countries have either legalised the drug for medical use, decriminalised its recreational use, or simply turned a blind eye to its use. In fact, over 3.8 of the world population actively consume cannabis. A poll conducted by the Greens found that 65% of Australians support cannabis decriminalisation, while only 23 percent oppose it. Another study showed 43 percent of Australians support cannabis legalisation, while 32 percent don’t and 22 percent are undecided.
These current trends and increasing support for cannabis legalisation may suggest that this is the right time for a proposal like the Greens’.
Cannabis legalisation is becoming more normal with time. Although oppositions still very much exist, the increasing support for decriminalising and/or legalising the drug can’t be ignored. The Greens’ upcoming bill is quite bold, as it even goes to the extent of permitting public smoking wherever cigarette smoking is allowed, and authorises the growth of 6 plants at home. These feature of the bill, perhaps, might be tempered down a bit for the bill to pass. But regardless of what the future bill may morph into, the legal cannabis for recreational use will be a reality sooner or later.
The trend points toward such a fact, as even neighboring New Zealand prepares to put the decision in its citizens’ hands next year, where the large majority of New Zealanders support cannabis legalisation. Australia shouldn’t want to be left behind in the cannabis sweepstakes, as several economic benefits will result from legalisation.