A new leaf? Push for Victoria to lead the way on cannabis legalisation

Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in most of Australia, although petty offenses were decriminalized years ago in South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory, with fines replacing criminal convictions.

In 2020, the ACT went further than any other state or territory on legal reform, Adults are allowed to grow to two plants Possession of small amounts of marijuana without penalty.

However, when marijuana was legalized, the sale of marijuana remained illegal, which did not address the black market and criminal networks for drug sales.

“Not knowing what’s on the street, or what’s in our cannabis products, does more harm than actually having a regulated market,” Payne said.

The Victorian government said there were currently no plans to decriminalize or decriminalize recreational cannabis use. But eight of the 11 crossbench MPs back legalization, and their votes are crucial for Labor to pass any legislation.

“I think the Victorian House of Lords would look similar to Star Wars [sic] bar scene” tweets Pollster and former Victorian Labor strategist Kos Samaras. “Instead, it will look like an Amsterdam café.”

The Green Party – which wants to legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana by 2024 – picked up four seats. Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell and Liberal Democrat MP David Limbrick also supported legalization.

Even upper house Liberal MP Bev McArthur said she was “always open to new ideas”.

Linbrick said he was excited that Victoria could become the first state in Australia to legalize cannabis.

“My advantage over other pro-marijuana parties is my ability to help conservatives support the idea,” he said. “If we play our cards right, it’s going to happen this term.”

So how close are we to changing the law?

That’s not on the agenda, according to Premier Daniel Andrews.

“We have no current plans to do so, and that has always been our position,” he said.

Andrews has often raised the issue of drug-induced psychosis and said a certain percentage of people in the community do not have safe levels of marijuana.

Behind the scenes, however, there is support within the government for reforming marijuana laws to reduce criminal activity, allow problem users to access support without fear of being prosecuted by the justice system, regulate sales and save on enforcement costs.

The government will need the support of six upper house crossbenchers to pass the legislation.

Election analyst Dr Kevin Bonham said Labor was most likely to negotiate with the Greens and legalize cannabis in Victoria.

Jubilation was sparked by a victory in Victoria's upper house of cannabis legalization on Wednesday.

Jubilation was sparked by a victory in Victoria’s upper house of cannabis legalization on Wednesday.Credit:Jason South

“Without a cannabis legalization party, it’s much harder for Labor to tackle the problem through other avenues,” Bonham said. “So I think that’s going to mean the legalization of marijuana is a prominent issue in this administration.”

There are some signs of a socially progressive government – it became the first in 2016 Legalization of medicinal marijuana And introduced a safe injecting room in 2018 – leaving it open to further cannabis reform.

Cannabis legalization Victoria secured Labor’s second choice in four regions, which the party’s secretary, Craig Ellis, said would mark a sea change for Labour, given that the party has no policy to legalize cannabis.

Reason Party leader Fiona Patten – who says one of her biggest regrets was not being able to legalize cannabis during her eight years in the House of Lords – believes there is a mood for change within the government.

Patten presides over two-year state legislature Investigate marijuana use in Victoria.

Although the three Labor MPs involved in the investigation watered down proposed proposal Victoria, which legalized cannabis for personal adult use, did sign up to call on the government to investigate the impact of doing so.


“It shows that the government is willing to consider legal reform,” Patten said.

Several countries, including Uruguay, Malta and Canada, have legalized the personal use of marijuana in the past decade. In the United States, adult-use marijuana is legal in 21 states.legalization is now so common New York Times recently written It no longer “makes big news often”. In October, U.S. President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.

More Australians support the legalization of cannabis than oppose it (41 per cent to 37 per cent) as reforms are pushed, according to 2019 National Drug Household Survey.

“It’s really a politically safe space for the Victorian government,” Samaras said.

“You’ve got so much support in the crossbench, I think there’s even some Libs you’ll understand that. And then of course knowing you’re going to have a good chunk of the electorate for it, I just don’t see any downside.”

Emma Kealy, the shadow minister for mental health, said the Liberals and Nationals would assess any new legislation on its merits but would not announce a position before it was brought to parliament.

About A$1.7 billion in taxpayer funding is spent on cannabis-related law enforcement in Australia each year, according to one figure. Pennington Institute report, Drug Policy Organization, this month.

In November 2021, police seized cannabis plants in Melbourne's western suburbs.

In November 2021, police seized cannabis plants in Melbourne’s western suburbs.Credit:Victoria Police

Although cannabis is illegal, it is readily available and more than a third of Australians over the age of 14 admit to using it.

In Victoria alone, almost 9000 cannabis use and possession offenses were recorded in the year ending September 2021, accounting for 92 per cent of all cannabis offenses over the same period.

Polls show voters — especially those under 40 — are “very testy” about suing users, Samaras said. “The community is no longer as averse to recreational marijuana as it was in the 1980s or 90s. I would say the political risk is not doing something in the space when there is an opportunity.”

One priority for the pro-cannabis party that the prime minister is indeed willing to examine is the impact of roadside drug testing on people taking medicinal cannabis.

These lick tests detect THC — responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects — which can remain in saliva for days, even if the actual damage lasts only a few hours.

Legalize cannabis: Victorian secretary Craig Ellis

Legalize cannabis: Victorian secretary Craig EllisCredit:Jessica Hermas

They cause people to lose their licenses and livelihoods, even if they hadn’t smoked marijuana in the days leading up to the test.

“Currently, the roadside drug testing system is really just a tool of prohibition, not road safety,” Victorian Cannabis Legalization Secretary Craig Ellis said.

Ellis has a prescription for medicinal marijuana, but said he often decides to take the addictive opioid Endone because he fears losing his license.

“It was wrong,” Ellis said. “I mean, when we have an opioid crisis in this country, we need to use as many policy levers as possible. Sustaining this unfair, discriminatory situation is only driving people to use opioids and benzodiazepines drugs, which can be dangerous if people drive while under the influence.”

Victoria Police said it was an offense for anyone to drive with any amount of THC in their system, including any amount from medicinal cannabis.

“There is strong evidence that the presence of drugs is a factor in the death and serious injury of drivers, reflecting Victoria’s legislative mandate to detect the presence of illicit drugs, including cannabis,” a spokesman said.

But Andrews acknowledged that some people aren’t taking the medicinal marijuana they need because “it’s a binary test — you either test positive or you test negative. There’s no 0.5 for this.”


Andrews said he wasn’t sure there was a solution to the conundrum.

“It was really difficult to find one during the last parliament, but I’ve been open,” he said. “You never want to put up barriers to people getting the care they need.”

Using marijuana is not without risks. According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, it has been linked to psychosis, with frequent and high-potency cannabis use increasing the risk.

Associate Professor Shalini Arunogiri, Chair of the Faculty’s Department of Addiction Psychiatry, said: “We know that recreational cannabis use is very common in our Australian community, and we know that for a small group of people, cannabis use can be harmful. “

The academy has no official position on whether marijuana should be legalized.

But Arunogiri said criminalizing cannabis was harmful because the stigma discouraged people from coming for treatment.

In a statement, Victoria Police said they did not support the legalization of cannabis.

“However, Victoria Police does have a long-standing and recognized drug alert, diversion and referral process for people found to be using or possessing illicit substances,” a spokesman said.

The spokesman said this provided early intervention, such as referrals for support and treatment, before harm associated with drug use became more serious.

Recently co-editor-in-chief of Prof. Simon Lenton, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences legalization of marijuanalooking at global emerging models.

Emerging evidence suggests that full commercial, profit-driven legalization of marijuana in U.S. states such as Colorado has led to low prices, high-potency products and higher levels of use, he said.

“The 20 percent of the heaviest marijuana users are responsible for 80 percent of sales, and commercial entities target these users because that’s where they know the profits are,” Renton said.

“If you have a free market model that is profit driven, you have the same problems that we see with alcohol and tobacco.”

Renton wants to see Australia take a different path and take a “middle ground option”.

Visitors take selfies at a Cannabis Expo in Uruguay in 2015.

Visitors take selfies at a Cannabis Expo in Uruguay in 2015.Credit:Associated Press

He pointed to the Canadian province of Quebec, which has restrictions on the number of retail outlets and the potency of products, and Uruguay, which has nonprofit cannabis social clubs. Social clubs, registered by the Uruguayan government, are places where members grow and exchange marijuana. They monitor quality and advise members who may be smoking too much.

“There are many different ways to do this, and not going down the profit-driven business path is a smart place to start,” Renton said.

Pro-cannabis MPs say they are keen to work with the administration on an approach that reflects good public policy. “What we’re after is progress,” Greens health spokesman Dr Tim Read said. “We just don’t want people being dragged into court, because of a criminal record, or even locked up for smoking marijuana.”

Balance of power: Cannabis legalization MPs in the House of Lords announced Wednesday that Victoria's David Ettershank has swapped mobile phone numbers with the Liberals' Georgie Crozier.

Balance of power: Cannabis legalization MPs in the House of Lords announced Wednesday that Victoria’s David Ettershank has swapped mobile phone numbers with the Liberals’ Georgie Crozier.Credit:Jason South

This week, the prime minister reiterated that there are currently no plans for drug reform.

“But that doesn’t mean that other people feel the same way,” he said. “There will be debates, there will be discussions. I know other people who see things very differently than I do. That’s the beauty of our democracy.”

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