Prohibition has failed

Every year, both the consumption of cannabis and arrests associated with its use continue to rise. 35% of Australians have used cannabis, in spite of cannabis accounting for the greatest proportion of illicit drug arrests across Australia.

Quite simply, this system is not working. Criminalisation of the production and use of cannabis has caused multiple harms, including forcing people to live with criminal records for possessing only a small amount of weed, pushing cannabis users to purchase from drug dealers and consume a product of unknown strength and quality, and diverting money into the futile law enforcement response and away from drug and mental health treatment and education.

In place of the “war on drugs”, the Greens would create a tightly regulated legal market for cannabis, as has happened in many states of the US, Uruguay and Spain, and will soon happen in Canada. Treating cannabis use as a health issue, not a criminal issue, will bust the business model of drug dealers, ensure greater protections for vulnerable cannabis users and redirect millions spent policing cannabis use into the health system.

The Australian Cannabis Agency

In place of prohibition, we would create a tightly regulated cannabis market.

To regulate this newly created market, the Australian Cannabis Agency would be established to issue licenses for cannabis production and sale, act as the single wholesaler of legally accessible cannabis, carry out a program of monitoring and enforcement of premises of production and sale, and conduct ongoing review and monitoring of the regulatory scheme to ensure it is functioning optimally.

We would also establish retail stores to sell cannabis. These stores would require ID to enter and ban sales to anyone under the age of 18, sell only plain packaged cannabis (with visible health warnings) and require staff to undertake a responsible sale of cannabis course.

Growth of six plants at home for personal use would be permitted, but strict penalties would apply for unlicensed or underage sales, or driving whilst under the influence of cannabis.

Protecting vulnerable cannabis users

Whilst not as harmful as other illicit drugs like methamphetamines, cannabis is not entirely free from harm — particularly for those with existing mental ill health, when used excessively, or on the developing brain in younger people.

Legalising cannabis increases the protections for these more vulnerable people by bringing its production and sale into a tightly regulated market, rather than leaving it to criminal drug dealers to sell to children and young adults.

We would also use a proportion of the money saved in the law enforcement response, and gained through tax revenue, to better fund drug treatment services, mental health services and drug education programs.

Busting the criminal business model

As long as cannabis is illegal, it’s production and supply is in the hands of criminal gangs. The ‘war on drugs’ approach has done nothing to stop or even reduce cannabis use in Australia, so the huge law enforcement response to illegal cannabis supply is an expensive failure.

A key benefit of legalising cannabis through this controlled market is busting the business model of the criminal gangs. In a legal market, people are not forced to interact with illegal drug dealers, reducing the risk of migrating to other drugs, and the profits are diverted away from organised crime.

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We’re building something big, and this is only the beginning. Just as the Greens led the charge on huge, progressive social change movements like marriage equality and voluntary assisted dying, we’re launching this campaign to legalise it and profoundly change Australia’s drug laws for the better.