To legalise or not to legalise? A look into the ACT’s new Cannabis Laws
There is a growing sense in Australia that the question of legalising cannabis may not be a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. However far off it may be for the rest of the country it has certainly arrived sooner than imagined in the nation’s capital.
Canberra has never been a city to shy away from taking progressive action, often passing bills or trialling new laws before the rest of our nation catches up. Whether it’s pill testing or gay marriage, our little city is known for making big moves, and the legalisation of cannabis is officially the next notch in our belt.
Last week a bill was officially passed that allows Canberrans to legally carry, use and grow small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The laws would allow for possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis and cultivating 4 cannabis plants per household.
But even this bill does not quite go all the way for completely legalising low-level use. Prohibitions will remain for smoking cannabis in public places or within 20 metres of children, possessing artificial or synthetic cannabis or sharing cannabis with friends – it could be deemed as ‘supply’ and that is still illegal. The ACT’s drug driving penalties will also remain by far the harshest in the country.
According to the University of New South Wales roughly 1 in 4 Australians now support legalisation. Whether this change will have to same inevitability as the same sex marriage reforms remains to be seen.
Among factors such as the drug’s non-addictive and non-aggressive nature, and its use in managing pain relief or bringing back appetite, we see a number of ways the legalisation of cannabis can improve our other broader community:
- Harm reduction
- Raised tax revenue if regulated
- Crime and proceeds of crime reductions
- Increased protection for vulnerable people
- Less gaol and other court imposed sentences for cannabis users
These improvements can manifest in diverse ways; it could be through minimising the ‘taboo’ around the topic, allowing people to seek drug education, creating better methods for people who may have problems with the drug to seek and receive treatment services, and allowing better strategies to be in place to manage safe cannabis use within upcoming generations.
Legalising possession and cultivation of cannabis is just one of many steps needed to reap these kinds of rewards. Whether it is regulating the production and supply of cannabis or standardising storage, size and weights, legislation could be just the beginning of a shift in our mindsight to treating the issue as one of public health and letting go of a pointless obsession with crime and punishment.