Australia’s marijuana situation may surprise you
Marijuana in Australia, we see progress on a number of fronts, down-under. ‘Me too’ is as big an issue in Australia as it appears to be in the US. We were impressed by the children involved in the Stoneman Douglas shooting and the groundswell of support they gathered around changing gun laws. It took us a while, but, at the end of 2017, we finally legalized Gay Marriage, too.
The success of legalizing marijuana in Colorado is incredible to watch from Australia. The pioneering steps that state took in 2012 to progress beyond the prohibition laws which have governed the drug, worldwide, for the better part of a century, were and are inspiring. Unfortunately, progress on the legalization of cannabis has not been nearly as impressive. My website Cannabis Express to is trying to change that.
Here are 8 quick things you need to know about Australia and marijuana
Here’s a whistle-stop tour of where we are when it comes to the questions surrounding the legalization of cannabis in Australia.
1. Australia is the world’s largest consumer of pot: A 2012 report in The Lancet showed that, despite the illegality of marijuana in Australia, (along with our closest neighbor, New Zealand, use more than any other country.
2. It is legal to buy and own cannabis for medical use: In 2016, the Australian Government (under the Australian Labor Party) legalized cannabis for medical use. The reality is, however, that cannabis in almost all it’s forms remains practically hard to obtain, even with a valid medical request and the support of your Doctor. Only around 30 Doctors in Australia have a license to prescribe the drug (we are a country of 27 million people, roughly the same population as Texas.)
3. Marijuana is not legal for recreational use: Cannabis for adult or recreational use has been decriminalized in 2 states of Australia but it is not legal in any state or territory. There are no plans do legalize cannabis and little public debate on the issue as things stand.
4. More Australians want to see cannabis legalized than remain criminalized: A 2015 opinion poll showed that Australians’ sentiment about cannabis is shifting in the same direction as the rest of the world. The proportion who believe it should be legal rose from 26.8% in 2004 to 31.8% in 2015. Interestingly, younger people were less likely than older people to want the drug decriminalized.
5. Australia wants to be the biggest grower of cannabis in the world: Greg Hunt, the controversial (he was recently accused of misogyny and shouting abuse at a 70 year old woman) Health Minister has made clear his ambition for Australia to become the world’s largest exporter of cannabis. Unfortunately, it appears that much of what he said lacks any form of financial commitment from the government. The primary goal of becoming a significant exporter of marijuana, beyond export revenues, is to ensure the supply of medical grade cannabis in Australia.
6. We are watching the rest of the world: Much of the news we receive in Australia is sourced from overseas, especially the US, UK and Canada. A surprisingly large proportion of that news recently has related to questions surrounding legalization of cannabis in other parts of the world. The potential for legalization of weed in Canada, New Zealand (NZ) and the USA is of particular interest, to both politicians and ‘real people’. These countries are some of our closest economic and military partners. They share many of the same values that Australians hold. The very fact that they are seriously considering questions associated with the right policies around legalization is likely to raise the issue here.
7. We want the economic benefits of (and tax associated with) cannabis legalization: Australia, like the US, UK and much of the rest of the world suffered an economic downturn following the Global Banking Crisis in 2008. While we were lucky in many regards (we haven’t had a recession of any sort since June 1991), even including the events of 2008. However, the government here carries and funds a significant public debt. A report from April this year suggested that the Australian budget would benefit to the tune of $3.5 billion simply as a result of making cannabis fully legal.
8. It’ll be a while before we make cannabis legal: Despite recent attempt by Richard DiNatalie, the leader of the Australian Greens party, to raise legalization a policy for his party, it seems likely that the process will be some time. Most estimates suggest it will be at least 3 years before it is likely to be made legal in Australia and it may take a good deal longer.
Bringing it all together
Canada is learning from some of the policy implementation problems that the US has suffered. No doubt, should New Zealand legalize following the referendum they have proposed to have on the matter, they too will learn lessons in the areas of policy and implementation.
My personal hope is that the groundswell which started in Colorado and has now extended to 9 US states and Canada, extends to Australia.
One of the biggest Australian States, Victoria, conducted a comprehensive review of drug policy which resulted in around 50 recommendations to the state government. One of the most reported was the suggestion that a new state government body be created which could consider the question of legalization. Those involved in the recommendations had visited both Colorado and Uruguay (which has also legalized cannabis production and consumption nationally.) The successes they saw in the areas which have legalized along with recommendations from drug experts pointing out the ineffectiveness of ‘The War On Drugs’ are being taken seriously.
Even Greg Hunt, the Health Minister mentioned earlier has let slip that he considers the ultimate question as to whether cannabis is made legal to be ‘a matter for the states.’ It will take a while but it does seem that eventually, Australia will legalize too.
About the Author:
Neil Aitken is CEO of Cannabis Express, a website dedicated to providing the facts and information Australians need to decide how to vote on the subject of whether Australia should legalize recreational cannabis for personal use.