"Good 8th, Mate!" Will Australia Beat America to Federal Cannabis Legalization?
Aside from Funnel Web Spiders, Bull Sharks, Brown Snakes, Box Jellyfish, Saltwater Crocodiles, Death Adders or just a random baby-eating dingo, Australia is a pretty chill place.
To deal with such a slew of killer creatures, and to make Vegemite taste better, it is estimated that roughly 1/3rd of Aussies over the age of 22 have used cannabis in the past year.
The same stats posit that over 750,000 of them use it weekly and 300,000 smoke weed daily down under.
Like in many parts of the world, lawmakers in the continent-nation are in the midst of a fierce debate over if and how to integrate cannabis legalization into their society as they look to potentially follow Uruguay & Canada’s moves and become just the 3rd country to fully legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis nationwide on a federal level.
No legislation has reached the Aussie parliament yet, however one of the major parties – appropriately named the Greens – has announced that full legalization will be a key plank in their political platform moving forward.
It’s a pretty bold move considering that recent polling shows that even though a whopping 91% of residents support medical marijuana legalization, just 35% of the population supports full recreational legalization.
To be fair, that second number is up from 26.8% in 2004, and the slow but steady growth in general popularity is in line with global statistical trends on the topic.
Now, with the loud and proud support of one of the country’s three political parties, that number should increase more rapidly and political insiders down under predict that legal weed may be sold in stores in the near future.
“The war on drugs has failed,” says Richard DiNatale the leader of the Greens Party. Everything about Australia’s current cannabis laws needs an overhaul.
He points to figures recently released by the nonpartisan Parliamentary Budget Office that show that Australia could reap $4 Billion in cannabis tax revenues over the next four years and another $2 Billion per year after that.
“We need to get real about cannabis. Almost 7 million Australians have used cannabis despite currently risking a criminal record for doing so, states DiNatale. He adds, “As a drug and alcohol doctor, I’ve seen 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. The Greens’ plan will raise billions for our healthcare system and focus law enforcement resources into where they’re needed most.”
Australia does have a federally approved medical marijuana program, in place since 2016, but it is incredibly restrictive with only around a thousand registered patients. And, due to a painfully slow cultivator’s application process, the system has long relied on importing cannabis products from other countries like Switzerland which leads to even more delays for patients in need.
All of this can be improved, if not totally avoided, with a sensible set of regulations to totally legalize the entire cannabis plant and all of its many uses, but not everyone agrees.
Greg Hunt, the nation’s Health Minister, called cannabis a “gateway drug” just last week.
(*Rumor has it that his VCR has been blinking 12:00 over and over again for years now and it makes him cranky.)
Just last month Vickie Chapman, the Attorney General of South Australia, announced plans to crack down hard on cannabis use in her jurisdiction by overturning over three decades of established cannabis decriminalization laws and imposing quadruple-penalty fines and the possibility of jail time for those caught even minimal amounts of cannabis.
Alex Wodak of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation calls Chapman’s proposal “crazy” and “nonsense”.
Chapman, like a crazy person spouting nonsense, rebuts those claims by warning about biker gangs, murder, and of course the kiiiiiiids.
The answer to power-hungry politicians like Chapman is full-scale federal legalization.
The Greens plan would establish an oversight body and authorized retail outlets each staffed by trained and knowledgeable staff.
It would allow every Aussie to grow 6 plants of their own – a great way to avoid the proposed 25% tax that’ll be tacked onto all legal weed.
There are, of course, many more details involved but most of all it will put Australia among the world leaders in legit cannabis reform that has proven to be highly beneficial for the states here in the US, and the countries around the globe, that have embraced it.
If you live in Australia, consider a vote for the Green Party. Or, at the very least, work to push your preferred party closer to their progressive perspective on pot.