Aussies have been waiting for a politician to have the courage to stand up for what is best for the Australian public and call for an end to the decades-long badly failed war on cannabis. Hopes have been rasing since the Kiwis were promised a referendum last year.
Dr Richard Di Natale has made history when he called for the legalization of cannabis for adult use in Australia on the 16th of April 2018.
Dr Di Natale is the leader of The Greens, a political party that now has a detailed plan to legalize cannabis for adults in Australia.
A similar call for action has happened on a state level when Victorian MP, Fiona Patten stood up in the Victorian Parliament and called for the legalization of cannabis for all adults in the country.
The leader of The Greens, however, is the first federal politician to say enough is enough and point the spotlight on the disaster that the war on cannabis has become.
It is also worth mentioning at this point that a group of senior and well-respected law enforcement professionals has been calling to end the war on drugs in Australia for quite some time.
A day after the announcement, Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister of health reinforced the coalition government’s opposition to the proposal.
Hunt repeated his misinformed position that he believes that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs like methamphetamines, while it is a well-known fact that cannabis is not a gateway drug, as a matter of fact, it is the opposite of that. It helps drug addicts to give up their addiction.
Hunt said that their job is to protect the health of the people of Australia and The Australian Greens’ proposition risks the health of Australians.
7 million people have used cannabis in Australia and Hunt would rather keep them buying cannabis from the black market where dangerous drugs are also available and the quality of the cannabis is unknown. Prohibition is the real gateway to harder drugs and the proposal from The Greens would not only make Aussies healthier but would also help to channel the wealth from the unregulated cannabis market to the government.
Who are The Greens?
The Australian Greens, also known as just ‘The Greens’, is a major political party in Australia.
Formed in 1992, it is a confederate of eight state and territorial parties. The Greens have four core principles, namely: ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice, and peace and non-violence.
The party supports and would like to emulate the implementation of the Portuguese model in the drug law reform. They specifically noted Portugal’s treatment of drug addiction as a health concern rather than a law and order issue.
The party treats the drug legalization issues on a case by case basis. Cannabis is one of the substances The Greens support to be decriminalized.
The Australian Greens is currently led by Richard Di Natale.
How Can the Legalization Work in Australia?
The Australian Greens’ plan proposes a government-regulated approach where the newly created department, the “Australian Cannabis Agency” (ACA) would act as the wholesaler of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. The ACA would buy cannabis from the farmers and sell it to licensed dispensaries.
Their proposal also appeals for the government to permit adults to plant and cultivate up to six cannabis plants in their homes for personal use.
On the other hand, those under 18 are banned from purchasing cannabis-related merchandise. Advertisements to promote cannabis products are also prohibited.
Cannabis sales would be taxed same as alcohol and cigarettes. Revenue from the taxes would go directly to the government’s budget for education and health programs.
The Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that the Greens’ plan would result in AUD 3.6 billion over 4 years from July 2019.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Di Natale said that the war on drugs is just quite simply war on the people. He also said that it’s about time to get real about cannabis use in the country.
“The Greens’ plan will raise billions for our healthcare system and focus law enforcement resources into where they’re needed most.” Dr. Di Natale said during the interview.
The Current Situation of Cannabis in Australia
Use and possession of cannabis for adult use and recreational purposes is against the law in Australia. A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said that it is the most used drug in the country. The report also reveals a survey that says one in ten Australians has used marijuana in the last 12 months.
In some states and territories, such as the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and South Australia, the possession of cannabis in small quantities has been decriminalized. Although anyone caught with cannabis have to face civil penalties including payment of fines and counseling.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the country cannabis related prosecutions have been on the rise. Nearly 80,000 cannabis-related arrests were made during the years of 2015 and 2016.
The cultivation, sale, and transportation of cannabis can still incur criminal charges in the country.
“If somebody is found with small amounts of cannabis for personal use, the primary response for me isn’t a law enforcement response, it’s a public response,” says Professor Steve Allsop. “Putting people into the criminal justice system creates harm.”
Allsop is a Professor and Director of the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
In 2016, marijuana was legalized for medical use in Australia. But up until now, medical marijuana patients complain that they still have to face great obstacles just to obtain medical cannabis.
Limited cannabis supply, never-ending red tape, doctors who are unfamiliar with the substance, and the high costs of medical cannabis are some of the barriers they listed that hinder them from using cannabis for medical use.
Is There a Chance for Australia to Change Their Marijuana Laws?
As of the moment, the Australian government is against the decriminalization of cannabis.
Professor Allsop said that being conservative and careful on this issue might not be such a bad move.
Allsop explains that once any drug or form of drug use is legalized, it will be challenging and demanding to have it reversed especially if the legalization causes negative implications in the future. The professor said that carefully evaluated steps are needed rather than a great jump to unfamiliar territories.
Political experts believe that the issue won’t go away easily especially that a major political party like the Australian Greens are behind this movement. They said that The Greens’ action towards the legalization of cannabis will initiate more actions from the supporters of marijuana legalization.
Professor Allsop also supports the Portuguese model and said that the movement to recognize drugs as a health issue rather than a crime seems to be gaining momentum worldwide and Australia might not be that far to answer the global call to legalize cannabis.