Is Australia Going to Miss Out on the Cannabis Pie?

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Australia has a long history of utilising hemp and cannabis for a wide range of purposes, including medical and industrial uses.

Australia also possesses a huge opportunity for hemp and cannabis production due to its favourable climate and big arable land masses.

Canada is in a similar (although not as favourable position) as Australia and their cannabis industry is one of the most advanced (and most profitable) around the world.

Canada legalised cannabis for medical use in 2001 and have established itself as one of the leaders in the medical cannabis space around the world. Australia took another 15 years to legalise medical cannabis in 2016.

Australia's cannabis law

Canada’s PM, Justin Trudeau has promised legalizing adult use (recreational) cannabis. It is taking more time than initially anticipated, however, it is likely to happen as early as this year (2017).

Meanwhile, Australia is in a process of trying to work through government red tape to be able to import cannabis under the newly approved medical cannabis program… from Canada.

Public support to legalise medical cannabis in Australia has reached 91% (2015) by the time the government managed to get moving. A lot of high-profile patients have been appearing in the news, from very young children to elderly people, the most vulnerable segment of our population that needs life-saving medicine the most.
These have been further highlighting the overwhelming therapeutic benefits of cannabis and how incredibly safe it is.

Despite the proven facts of the safety and effectiveness of the cannabis plant, Australian politicians are still playing along with the recently outdated US propaganda from the 60’s and doing their best to ignore or hold back progress.

Despite the proven facts of the safety and effectiveness of the cannabis plant, Australian politicians are still playing along the recently outdated US propaganda.

Economists and cannabis supporters are wondering why Australia would not take advantage of the biggest opportunity of our lifetime… to position itself as a leader in the cannabis industry worldwide. All the stigma has been myth busted by now, this is 2017.

Bluegreen Economics, a Brisbane, Australia-based economic consulting firm has put a proposal through to the Queensland government, titled “The Economic and Social Benefits and Costs of Legalising Recreational Cannabis in Queensland: A preliminary examination

The report draws the attention to the similarity of the State of Colorado and the Australian State of Queensland. They both have the same population (5.5 million in Colorado and 4.8 million in Queensland). The two states were even established very close to each other, Queensland in 1859 and Colorado in 1876.

The similarity of the State of Colorado and the Australian State of Queensland.

Colorado has begun its adult use cannabis sales throughout most of the state in 2014 and since then it has been a massive success from social and from economical perspectives alike.

Colorado’s tax revenue has been steadily increasing since year one:

  • 2014 – US$ 699.2m
  • 2015 – US$ 996.2m
  • 2016 – US$ 1.3b

US$ 1,313,156,545 revenue for the state in its third year of legalising cannabis. That means about US$ 199 million in taxes and fees for the last calendar year (2016) and it is money towards schools and hospitals.

This is revenue that Australian politicians willingly ignore.

AU government chooses to ignore the economic impact from the cannabis. industry

Queensland Premier, Annastacia  Palaszczuk was quick to respond saying that her Labour government chooses to ignore the advice and was not interested.

“Recreational cannabis is an illicit drug when used for non-medical purposes and my government does not support its legalisation”

I am afraid they did not spend much (if any) time looking into the report. If they did, they did a huge disservice to the people of Queensland and ultimately to the people of Australia.

What classifies ‘medical purposes’ Ms Premier? How can we expect your government to lead us through the transitioning from mining investment and income to… if you boldly ignore and miss opportunities like this?

Ms Palaszczuk plays safe politics and refuses to be a first mover in the country. As a matter of fact, her government made 23,850 arrests related to cannabis last year alone. Queensland has been dominating that list for 15 years.

Queensland made 23,850 arrests related to cannabis in 2016.

How can you explain to those tens of thousands of people that were arrested on cannabis charges, that science has caught up and it is clear these days that cannabis is actually a wellness product and every use is therapeutic.

Yes, it can be misused, just like anything, however, every use is therapeutic.
You can overdose water and die from it. You can’t possibly overdose cannabis, that’s how safe it is.

How could a Premier, with the best interest of her state in mind possibly make such a mistake, for anything other than politics?

It can be politically risky to be a first adopter of a new and revolutionary legislation like this. For the Premier, cannabis is not safe enough. What would happen if they gave it a go and something went south? Fortunately, Colorado in a very similar culture has already done it, and all the outcomes are available for the Premier and her government to study and make an educated decision.

All the social and economic data is available and it shows mostly improvements across the board.

Economic impact of the cannabis industry

Despite the overwhelming evidence of cannabis legalisation working, being an early adopter is not good for politics, however, it is good for business. Let someone else adopt it first and if it all works out, we’ll implement it as well.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to work that way. The state, that moves first will have the added benefits of cannabis tourism. Just like in the US, cannabis loving local and international tourists choose the legal states to spend most or all of their holiday there, if they can.
The more states are legal, the less benefit it is to any particular state.

Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group was quoted by the saying –

“Colorado has had a really good run, being the first mover … now, as other states legalize, some of these external benefits that are occurring are going to be eroded.”

The day of legal cannabis is coming, hopefully in the close future, however as we say it down here in Australia, we have to pull our finger out to make sure Australia gets a fair share of the cannabis pie.

How do you see the Australian government’s response to the cannabis legalization movement?

Share your views in the comments section below.

Krisztian Panczel

Krisztian Panczel

I am stoked to be able to write for as I’ve been passionate about the Cannabis plant in its every form since I was 14 years old. I have a bachelor degree of Agricultural Science and have studied plant production for 8 years. Meanwhile, I learned so much about plants that it was hard to miss the outstanding (quite incredible) qualities of this hugely versatile plant. After university I went on to build a career and recently I had the opportunity to return to this most passionate area of my life and have been writing about a wide variety of topics on Cannabis and Hemp.

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