The Australian Government
Legalizing cannabis can be a complicated task. It likely requires a major shift in public opinion, which has occurred, and a series of political moves within the government to that’ll eventually lead to a legal cannabis law. But this is a complicated process, given how governments are generally structured.
Public opinion on cannabis has changed significantly. Source: CannabisExpress
The Australian government is divided into three arms. These arms work independently and in conjunction with one another to maintain a state of decorum in society. They are:
- The Legislature;
- The Executive; and
- The Judiciary.
Each arm of government performs a unique set of duties. The legislature is charged with the writing, amendment and repealing of laws. The executive is tasked with enforcing the laws made by the legislature, and the judiciary is tasked with interpreting the law as well as judging individuals who have broken the law.
A close look at the Australian legislature
The Australian legislature – also known as the Parliament – is responsible for the creation of the laws which govern society. The parliament is bicameral – meaning it is divided into two houses. These houses are the House of Representatives – also known as the lower house – and the house of Senate – the upper house.
The House of Representatives is comprised of 151 members, each representing an electorate. The senate is made up of 76 members. Each state is represented by 12 senators and each territory is represented by 2. Under section 51 of the constitution, the legislature has the power to debate and vote on new laws which will govern the nation.
Under the Australian legislature, there are three levels of law-making bodies:
- Federal Parliament – This is the highest law-making body. The Federal parliament makes laws that are enforced on the entire nation.
- State and Territory Parliaments – There are six state and two mainland territory parliaments. These parliaments make laws for states and territories.
- Local Councils – There are over 560 local councils. These are responsible for local laws – also known as by-laws. These laws govern respective regions and districts.
Three levels of legislature in Australia. Source
What steps would be required to legalize weed In Australia?
For cannabis to be made legal throughout the country, the federal parliament would have to enact a law authorizing it, or initiate a referendum of some sort. The typical steps would involve passing a bill. Here’s the process:
- The creation of a bill
A bill is a proposed legislation up for consideration by the legislature. A bill is created by a minister of either house (senate or representatives). Certain bills have been introduced by other members of parliament (MPs), however, they seldom make law. The House clerk assigns a legislative number to the proposed bill if proposed in the House of Representatives, and the Senate clerk performs the same process if proposed in the Senate.
A committee is assigned to take an in-depth look on the bill’s subject matter. There are several committees and each committee oversees a specific policy area. Often times, committees refer the bill to subcommittees. The subcommittees reserve the right to request reports from government agencies and subject experts. The committee may then make a recommendation to pass the bill, revise it or to cast it aside.
The bill is sent to the full House or Senate. At this stage, the MPs may seek to amend the bill with additional texts or alter the bill.
Creating a law
Once a bill passes the parliament, it is presented to the Governor-General – also known as the Queen – for signing in. This is the final step in passing a bill into law. In certain situations, the Governor-General recommends the bill be amended. This, however, is rare.
Will we be seeing legalization in Australia soon?
Cannabis is currently legal for medical use under the Therapeutic Goods Act. Currently, the Green Party, under Richard Di Natale, seeks to decriminalise cannabis for individuals over the age of 18. Around 46% of Australians believe cannabis use should only result in a warning or no action at all. Compare that to the paltry 4.5% that believe incarceration should be the result of cannabis use.
Only a small percentage of Australians support prosecutions for cannabis use. Source
This is a record growth from where Australia was once the opposite on the cannabis debate. For example, in 2013, 44% of the populace supported the government’s stance on Marijuana laws.
Although there is massive support from the Australian population and parliament, there is no telling if widespread legalisation will soon be a reality.
In Australia, the legislative arm of government is responsible for the creation of laws within the nation. The members of parliament go through rigid and defined steps to pass bills into law. This may be the case with legalizing cannabis, unless a referendum is proposed. Either way, enacting a legal cannabis law for recreational purposes will have to clear a few hurdles in a complicated process.