Australia’s cannabis decriminalization movement: Will the next move to legalize come from Down Under?

Australia's Cannabis Decriminalization

The Growing Momentum Towards Cannabis Decriminalization in Australia

Australia’s views on cannabis are undoubtedly experiencing a transformative moment, marked by shifting societal attitudes, political considerations, and ongoing debates surrounding cannabis decriminalization. As the nation acclimates to this evolving narrative, it’s become increasingly clear that the trajectory of cannabis policy is defined by interplay between progressive ideals and entrenched perspectives.

As a point of fact, Australians self-report themselves collectively using cannabis a a rate that exceeds that of the international norm. According to the United Nations World Drug Report for 2020, cannabis use in Australia (10.6 percent) remains far higher than the world average (3.9 percent).

Furthermore, In a recent Medigrowth study, it was found that six percent of Australians have already incorporated medical cannabis into their lives under prescription, and a noteworthy 22 percent have contemplated seeking a prescription in the past year.

This survey highlights a substantial transformation in the perception and embrace of medical cannabis in Australia. Specifically, 38 percent of Australians are know someone who has used medical cannabis, with this percentage escalating to 52 percent among Generation Z Australians.

Meanwhile, a recent study also found that of the 640 Australian general practitioners (GPs) surveyed, more than half were in favor of prescribing medicinal cannabis. Perhaps that’s why some 40% of respondents said they would be comfortable telling their employer if they were taking medicinal cannabis.

Victoria Leaders Back Health-Based Approach to Cannabis

In the midst of the debate surrounding cannabis decriminalization, Victoria emerges as a focal point for potential change, with key political figures openly admitting to past cannabis use. Australia’s shifting views on cannabis are expected, as Victoria’s Premier Jacinta Allan, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Opposition Leader John Pesutto all confessed to trying cannabis in the past, The Age reported, suggesting the Labor government may be considering cannabis decriminalization to allow for personal use.

The Legalise Cannabis Party proposed a bill to legalize personal cannabis use in June. The bill was introduced in the parliaments of Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia on the same day.

Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt said on Wednesday that the government is ready to collaborate with experts, the community and the Legalise Cannabis party on the possible legalization of personal cannabis use, but the Labor cannot support the bill as it is.

“We are unable to support this bill that aims to legalise the adult personal use of cannabis beyond medical reasons in its current form at this time,” Stitt said.

Premier Allan has also been cautious on the issue. “Of course we would get advice, of course we would seek advice, and in this instance advice from health experts. That’s what we have indicated in the house yesterday that we would do,” Allan state at a press conference on Thursday.

Instead of punishing cannabis users, Victorian treasurer, Tim Pallas, advocates for a health-oriented approach. Speaking at a debate on Thursday, Pallas stated “I don’t think a criminal approach to this is best. A health approach would be best.” Pallas has long been a proponent of alternatives to laws that criminalize the plant.

NSW Trails Behind on Cannabis Reform

Meanwhile, a bill introduced in November in the New South Wales parliament would allow people to give cannabis to friends, grow up to six plants for themselves and have up to 50 grams, Vice reported.

Legalise Cannabis MP Jeremy Buckingham, who is pushing for the reform, brought a bud of weed to the parliament, stressing that he would face jail time if he shared it with anyone else, even though he had a legal prescription, ABC News reported.

“Here it is Mr. President, a bit of cannabis, medicinal cannabis,” Buckingham said as he presented the bill. “I note, Mr. President, that if I gave this cannabis here to you, you would face a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison. And so would I.”

In August, David Shoebridge, Greens Senator for New South Wales, introduced The Greens Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023, which would legalize recreational cannabis across the country.

However, there are still those, in 2024, who insist on grasping to archaic and outdated viewpoints and illogical paranoia when it comes to cannabis. The Australian Medical Association, for instance, opposes Shoebridge’s bill, which they decry will present potential health hazards of cannabis use.

“Legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes sends the wrong message to the public, and especially to young Australians, that cannabis use is not harmful,” said Prof Steve Robson, president of AMA.

Such a statement flies in the face of decades of science and research that have debunked many of the myths surrounding the notion that cannabis is harmful. These antiquated fears, not unlike the “Reefer Madness” paranoia in 1930s USA from a bygone era, run the gamut; from the gateway myth, to the notion that you can die from a marijuana overdose (Spoiler Alert: you can’t.).

Of course, perhaps no myth was as damaging as the ridiculous falsehood that then-Governor Ronald Reagan uttered: “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-Bomb blast.” The supposed proof of which was a tremendously flawed (and inhumanely cruel) study conducted on monkeys by Julius Axelrod.

To be sure, Australia’s journey towards cannabis decriminalization involves a multifaceted exploration of societal attitudes, political dynamics, and evolving cultural norms. The statistics present a compelling narrative of a nation at the cusp of change, with a growing acceptance of medical cannabis serving as a catalyst for broader policy discussions. The contrasting approaches between Victoria and New South Wales, coupled with political leaders’ personal admissions, paint a complex picture that reflects the ongoing evolution of Australia’s stance on cannabis. As the nation navigates this intricate landscape, the discourse surrounding cannabis policy continues to unfold, shaping the future trajectory of drug policy reform.


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Join us as we continue to follow all efforts toward cannabis decriminalization, stay tuned to our blog to stay in the know!

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