Australian Legalisation of Cannabis

Major Australian Legalisation Announcements in Recent Months

The legal framework for cannabis is set to change pace within the next few months, given the current state of affairs on cannabis consumption.

Australians across the country have continued to express their overwhelming support for the legalisation of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In states and territories, statistics have found that those in favour of legalisation have the majority vote. In one study in Tasmania, more than 1,100 Tasmanians were surveyed. It was found that 59% of Australians support the move towards legalisation, whereas 28% opposed it. In Denison, 63% favoured decriminalisation and legalisation while 23% were opposed. In Braddon, 59% of the population supported the motion.

A Graph by the NDSHS showing the support for the decriminalisation of cannabis within the Australian borders. Source

Despite the strong support for legalisation, the Australian government remains adamant that marijuana continue to be classified as a heavily restricted substance. Following the proposal to legalise cannabis within the Australian Capital Territory, many politicians shared their reasoning behind their drive towards legalisation. Weighing in on the bill presented by Michael Petterrson, a Labor backbencher, Chief Minister Andrew Barr stated that it may not be concluded for several months.  Barr remarked that due to the change in parliamentary policies, it is possible that the debate on the bill may not be concluded up until the middle of the year. Seeing as we are already beyond the predicted time frame, it is unlikely that this debate will be concluded any time soon.

The Green Party under Richard Di Natale stands at the forefront of cannabis legalisation within the country. In the words of Di Natale, “We want to see the abolition of criminal penalties for the personal consumption of marijuana and indeed other drugs. We think that we shouldn’t be targeting people who use these substances”.

As expressed to news.com.au, “the Greens are set to announce a plan to legalise, regulate and licence cannabis for recreational use in NSW – which will allow you own up to six plants and light up anywhere it’s legal to smoke tobacco.”

David Shoebridge, a Green Member of Parliament, is of the opinion that it makes no sense that the consumption of cannabis is a crime.

“We are wasting millions each year and missing out on licencing revenues that the state desperately needs. It’s time we stopped taking such a backward approach to a drug that over one-third of Australians have used.”

In the coming months, Australians will have to wait and see just how the ventures to legalise cannabis and cannabis products unfold. While the general debate seems to be heading in the right direction, there is still a lack of open support by the major parties.



Current Status of Cannabis in Australia

Cannabis, despite being a widely consumed substance throughout the nation, is still illegal for recreational use. However, though it may be illegal, cannabis use is widespread. Statistics collated by the National Drug Strategy in 2016 show that 35% of Australians aged 14 years and older have used the drug at least once in their lifetime. Cannabis use among the general population remained stable between 2001 and 2016 (12.9% - 10.4%). 36% of cannabis users report frequent weekly use of the substance. Despite these relevant statistics, cannabis use continues to be a criminal offense.

In 2016, affairs took a turn for the better as the government legalised cannabis for medical conditions under the Therapeutic Goods Act. The medical conditions that cannabis can be used to treat must fall under one of three categories as provided by the Special Access Scheme.

Individuals who desire to be medical marijuana patients must register themselves with the Commonwealth and their State/Territory Health Departments before they have the chance to be granted access to medicinal cannabis products as prescribed by a licensed doctor.



Current status of Hemp and CBD in Australia

The Australian laws on Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp are similar to the laws in New Zealand.

Hemp – also known as industrial hemp – is an invaluable cash crop. It is utilised in making clothes and building products, and its seeds can be eaten. Prior to 2017, the Australian government maintained that the farming of industrial hemp was legal; however, its consumption was not. Following an amendment to the Food Standards Code, hemp seeds have become legal to consume since the 12th of November 2017. In contrast with marijuana, hemp contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which give marijuana its psychoactive properties.

CBD and related products were legalised alongside marijuana in 2016 for patients with a prescription. It is currently listed as a Schedule 4 item under the Therapeutic Goods Act. In order to access CBD – particularly cannabis oil – one must have a prescription from an authorised medical practitioner.



Will Australia Follow New Zealand?

New Zealand may be on its way to becoming the first country where marijuana is legalised using a public vote. As expressed by the NZ government, a referendum will be presented to the citizens in 2020 after which a vote will be taken on the legal status of cannabis.

The basis of any democracy is the government’s ability to key in on the desires of its people and apply them to a reasonable degree. Australians have continually expressed their desire to see marijuana stripped of its illegal status and reintroduced into society. Regardless, if public opinion is in any way considered, easier access to medical marijuana for patients and potential legalisation of marijuana products for personal use could be a possibility in the very near future.


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