Survey shows most Australians want cannabis use legalised
The latest National Drug Strategy Household survey shows the majority of Australians now support legalising recreational cannabis. This 2019 survey marks a turning point in the country – the first time more Australians support legal cannabis than do not.
With the global view on cannabis shifting towards support for legalisation, perhaps this latest development in Australia shouldn’t come as a surprise. Over the years, we’ve seen legalisation gain more and more support, despite the opposition holding on to a slight majority.
The survey also gathered information on a number of other drug-related issues, and their results indicate an overall shift towards treatment and education as opposed to outright policing and punishment for drug-related offenses and abuse in general.
In this article, we’ll outline the relevant survey results and breakdown what they really mean for the country.
The National Drug Strategy Household survey
While support for legalising recreational cannabis use has grown over the years, surveys never reflected the majority of the country being in support. Just last year, we reported on a Roy Morgan research which, again, showed that while support for legalisation was growing, the majority still opposed legalisation.
The National Drug Strategy Household surveys are published every three years, and have shown a similar pattern in previous years – that while support for legalisation was growing, the majority remained opposed to the idea.
However, this latest National Drug Strategy Household survey marks the point where legalisation supporters have become the majority. The survey indicates a 5 percentage point shift in legalisation support – from 36% in 2016 to 41% in 2019. Apparently, only 37% now oppose cannabis legalisation.
The survey didn’t stop at cannabis legalisation, but explored other drug-related questions as well.
Here’s a quick look at some other relevant findings:
- There was an overall increase in illicit drug use from 2016 to 2019.
- More Australians used cannabis in 2019 (11.6%) compared to 2016 (10.4%).
- While cannabis use increased, daily cigarrette use declined.
- There was a decline in those who support classifying cannabis use as a criminal offense (22% compared to previous 26%) as well as those who support increasing penalties for sale and distribution (44% compared to previous 50%).
- However, while the majority of Australians now support cannabis legalisation, the vast majority (78%) will not use the drug.
There were also some significant findings related to drug treatment, education, and safe drug use.
- For the first time ever, the majority of Australians (57%) support pill testing – allowing chemists test pills for users before they use it. Only 27% opposed the idea.
- 47% of respondents support safe injecting rooms, where users can consume drugs under supervision, and are supplied with clean and safe drug paraphernalia like needles. 32% opposed the idea.
- When asked how $100 should be allocated to reduce drug use, given options between education, law enforcement, and treatment, respondents allocated more money to education over law enforcement.
Final words – These results indicate an overall shift in Australians’ attitude towards drug use in Australia
Attitudes toward cannabis use have changed around the globe. Uruguay, Canada, and several states in the United States have legalised the drug for recreational use. South Africa and Mexico have rendered legal decisions in court that authorize cannabis use. Several other countries and jurisdictions have decriminalised the drug, while many others have legalised it for medical use. This September, New Zealand citizens will vote on whether or not to legalise recreational cannabis use.
Australia is no different. In 2016, the government legalised medical cannabis use. Several states have decriminalised the drug, replacing jail time with educational programs instead. In fact, the ACT has legalised recreational cannabis use and allows residents to even grow the plant for personal use as well.
This global shift will continue, and we see its effects on Australia as evident in the latest National Drug Strategy Household survey. In time, as the majority support becomes the consistent norm, expect the Australian government to confront the legalisation question head on.