Declaring that prohibition has failed, an Australian political party proposes total cannabis legalization for the country. Sen. Richard Di Natale, the leader of the Australian Greens, announced his party’s new stance Monday, April 16.
The plan would legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. They could also legally grow at home up to six plants for personal use. Australia legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016.
Under the Greens’ proposal, the country would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol and tobacco. The government would create a new agency to be the sole wholesaler of cannabis products. Only licensed retailers could then sell that merchandise to the public.
Di Natale said that Australia should move toward a harm reduction strategy to address drug use. He also said that the country should treat “drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue,” according to media reports.
As a former physician, Di Natale said he has “seen that the ‘tough on drugs’ approach causes enormous harm. It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market.”
“Our plan to create a legal market for cannabis production and sale will reduce the risks, bust the business model of criminal dealers and syndicates, and protect young people from unfair criminal prosecutions,” he added.
Alex Wodak is the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation. He said that cannabis prohibition is not only ineffective, it also skews the government’s priorities.
“Banning cannabis hasn’t reduced its use or availability yet it has distracted police from following up more serious crimes, harmed a lot of young people and helped make some criminals rich,” Wodak said.
“Regulating cannabis will give government more control and increase government revenue, which can be used to fund drug prevention and treatment.”
A survey in 2016 found that 55 percent of Australians favored taxing and regulating cannabis like tobacco and alcohol.
The proposed changes would also bring the regulation of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis more in line with their respective potential for harmful health effects.
In March, a study found that tobacco caused nine percent of the country’s burden of fatal and non-fatal diseases. Alcohol accounted for 4.6 percent of the number. But all illicit drug use was just 2.3 percent, and cannabis made up only seven percent of that total.
If the new proposal is passed, it would be more good news for the Australian cannabis industry. The newly legal domestic businesses are supported by government regulations that prohibit the importation of medical marijuana products from other countries.
And in January, the government announced that the country’s medicinal cannabis firms could begin exporting their goods. While announcing that policy change, health minister Greg Hunt said the move would also help the country’s medical marijuana patients.
“By helping the domestic manufacturers to expand, this, in turn, helps to ensure an ongoing supply of medicinal cannabis products here in Australia,” he said at the time.
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