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Legalizing Cannabis Australia has done well at the ballot box – but reform likely will come from a cautious approach

One surprising result from the federal election was a record vote for Legalize Cannabis Australia, a minor party formerly known as Help End Marijuana Blockchain (HEMP).
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party received 2-7% of the Senate vote in most states and territories, with a narrow loss of a seat in the Queensland Senate.

This follows a notable result in the 2021 Western Australian state elections, where it was selected two seats in the Legislative Council.

Does the success of this single cause mean that Australians are finally ready to “legitimize” it?

Legalization support rose

In 2019, for the first time in the history of the survey, National survey of home medicines It found that more Australians are in favor of cannabis legalization (41.1%) than against it (37%).

Support for the legalization of cannabis has increased dramatically over the past few decades.

In 2007, only 21.2% of Australians supported legalization. This proportion jumped to 24.8% in 2020, then to 26% in 2013. It was 35.4% in 2016. By 2019, 41.1% of those surveyed supported legalization.

Only 22% of Australians surveyed in 2019 felt that possession and use of cannabis should be a criminal offence, compared to 34% in 2010.

Support for cannabis legalization likely comes from monitoring the legalization of recreational cannabis in countries around the world. Examples include Uruguay, Malta, Mexico, South Africa, Canada, and a number of states in the United States.

Interestingly, very few Australians indicated that they would use cannabis if it was legalized.

More than 78% of respondents in a 2019 survey said they would not use cannabis even if it was legal.

Only 9.5% said they would “try it” and 9.2% said they would “use it as often as they do now”.

But polls can be misleading

But asking voters whether they support a policy proposal in the abstract may not tell us much about how much they support it once it becomes a hot political issue.

We saw this play in the New Zealand Cannabis Referendum 2020. There, 51% of voters refused to legalize cannabis, despite early polls in 2020 strong support.

The debate over cannabis legalization has also become a larger topic of discussion, and support for legalization gradually narrowed Finally overturned Immediately before voting day. In the end, New Zealand narrowly no sound.

Opponents argued that the effect of normalization could encourage teens to start using cannabis or that there would be more drug-affected drivers on the road. Some have argued that there will be unexpected effects on lung health and mental health.

There is mixed evidence for each of these assumptions, but discuss itself Make voters more wary about change.

Gradual approach

One of the big lessons of the past few decades of cannabis law reform is that voters prefer a phased, deliberate approach to drug liberalization.

Voters need to be persuaded that the current legalization of illegal drugs will successfully reduce health and social harms.

one academic analysis From the failure of the New Zealand referendum noted that the proposed bill failed to address voters’ concerns about potency, the reduction of the black market and the normalization of cannabis.

The libertarian argument in favor of cannabis legalization that focuses on “freedom of choice” is Unlikely To divert voters already concerned about the harms of legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.

A more moderate approach is centered around it Harm Reduction and Best Practice Regulationsmore in line with the values ​​of the voters.

Jumping straight from a criminalized environment regarding cannabis toward full legalization may be too fast for some voters. Gradual change in cannabis policies is likely to gain support.

For example, countries that adopt medical cannabis policies (as did Australia) tend to do so move faster Towards the legalization of recreational cannabis from other jurisdictions.

One intermediate step, which has already happened different degrees In the Australian Northern and Southern Territory the possession and use of cannabis is decriminalized.

Change will be slower than some hope

he was there Strong and consistent support To decriminalize cannabis in all states and territories in Australia for a number of years now.

Decriminalization provides a good preliminary step toward treating cannabis use as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.

Overall, there is an increasing level of support for cannabis law reform in Australia. But change is likely to happen much more slowly than liberal advocates hope.

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