Government rejects Greens call for cannabis decriminalisation
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has declared the "war on drugs" has failed. Photo: Getty The New Daily @TheNewDailyAU
The Australian Greens proposal decriminalise cannabis, has been rejected by the federal government.
The Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the countryâs approach to illicit drugs was an âunmitigated disasterâ and it was time for real reform.
âGovernments around the world are realising that prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than it prevents,â Senator Di Natale said on Monday.
âItâs time Australia joined them and legalised cannabis for adult use.â
The minor party wants to redefine cannabis as a legal substance, with licences issued for its production and sale.
A national agency would be established to issue licences, monitor and enforce conditions and oversee regulations.
Up to six plants could be grown for personal use and strict penalties would be imposed on selling cannabis to minors or without a licence.
Senator Di Natale said almost seven million Australians had tried or used cannabis, with consumption and drug possession-related arrests both on the rise.
The Greens leader, a former drug and alcohol doctor, said Australiaâs tough approach to drugs had caused enormous harm.
âIt drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market,â Senator Di Natale said.
âThe Greens see drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
âOur 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.â
But Health Minister Greg Hunt called on the party to withdraw its suggestion, arguing it risks the health of Australians.
âMarijuana is a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented,â the minister told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
âWe do not believe it is safe, responsible or something which should be allowed .â
Asked why the government wouldnât want the tax revenue, Mr Hunt said it didnât want to put the mental health of Australians at risk.
The Greens leader, a former drug and alcohol doctor, pointed to a recent poll showing 55 per cent of Australians believed cannabis should be regulated and taxed like alcohol or tobacco.
He expects the plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, helping fund treatment, education and other harm-reduction programs.
Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said his party had long-held the position of legalising marijuana, criticising the 80,000 cannabis-related arrests each year.
âThis is an appalling waste of Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force resources to the tune of almost $100 million a year,â he said, citing Parliamentary Budget Office costings commissioned by his party.
Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch also backed the Greensâ push, saying âyouâd ban alcohol and cigarettes â too if the argument was that itâs bad for you.
The Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation welcomed the announcement.
âBanning cannabis hasnât 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,â president Alex Wodak said.
Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, welcomed the announcement.
âBanning cannabis hasnât 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,â Dr Wodak said.
âRegulating cannabis will give government more control and increase government revenue, which can be used to fund drug prevention and treatment.â
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