Legalising Cannabis

Q: Who can buy cannabis and where can they get it from?

A: Buying cannabis will be restricted to people aged 18 years and over, and people selling cannabis would be required to complete a course similar to the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) for alcohol.

Cannabis will only be available from licensed retailers, who would be subjected to ongoing strict regulation, monitoring and evaluation, with strong sanctions for license breaches.

Q: How will I know what I’m getting, and whether it is safe and legal?

A: Products will be plain packaged with clear information about THC and CBD levels, including the ‘street’ name for those products to allow people to understand what they are purchasing.

Regulations will apply to the growth and sale of cannabis, with spot checks of production locations to ensure compliance and purity standards are being adhered to.

Q: Where will I be allowed to use cannabis?

A: Cannabis consumption will be permissible in line with current smoking laws. Initially, we would not introduce cafes as per the Netherlands arrangements.

The two-year review of the arrangements would allow for examination of the regulations and any possible reforms.

Q: Who can grow it to sell commercially?

A: Only licensed growers – who would be required to produce at particular levels of THC and CBD, as well as meeting other regulations – would be able to produce cannabis. More licenses will be offered for smaller scale production than for larger operations. The license requirements will be closely regulated and monitored.

Q: What about the dangers of smoking?

A: Cannabis products will be available for preparation for home consumption. Smoking is harmful, so vaping cannabis may be a preferable option for consumption.

Q: Is cannabis dangerous if you’re pregnant?

A: There isn’t a lot of data at present about the impacts of cannabis use during pregnancy, but doctors advise caution. Clear labelling and education and good selling practices will allow pregnant women to make the right choice for them.

Q: What about drug driving and road safety?

A: Penalties for those found to be driving under the influence of cannabis would continue under our plan.

We do recognise that more needs to be done to improve the testing for drug impairment, and this would be a priority.

Q: Why not legalise all illicit drugs?

A: Legalisation of cannabis is an appropriate harm reduction approach to this particular drug.

We continue to support a harm-reduction approach to drug use, which can include decriminalisation. It varies drug to drug, but the key foundation of our policy is harm reduction and ensuring people have the support they need.

Q: How much cannabis will I be able to buy, and how strong will it be?

A: The Cannabis Agency will determine the specific quantities of cannabis that can be purchased, and how much you can carry at any time. They’ll determine the best range of strains to meet the demand while also limiting harmful strains.

Q: What advertising would be allowed?

A: No advertising would be allowed under any circumstances, including at point of sale.

Q: How much cannabis would I be able to grow? Can I sell it to friends?

A: It would be legal to grow up to six plants for personal use only. You won’t be able to sell it.

Q: Would it be taxed? Where would the money go?

A: While revenue is not the reason to legalise cannabis, it would be subject to GST as well as a level of federal excise to ensure that the price is broadly similar to the current price of cannabis.

A portion of the revenue raised through the taxation of cannabis should be redirected to drug treatment, health education and harm reduction. Other revenue can go to the general budget.

Legalising cannabis will create a commercial market for its production and sale. Jobs will be created in the production and cultivation of cannabis, as well as its retail sales.

Q: What about mental health?

A: Protecting people and reducing harm are key facets of this approach. We are very conscious of the potential risks associated with people with existing mental health conditions.

For those with mental health concerns, high quality drug and harm reduction education is essential. That’s why a key role of the agency would be to deliver on this.

Legalisation is a way of monitoring and controlling the quality and quantity as well as strength of the cannabis people consume, and to bring them into contact with people who can refer them to supports and treatment they might need.

Anyone selling cannabis will be required to have mental health first aid training, and all packets will carry health warnings.

Q: What about young people?

A: Protecting young people from cannabis use is a key objective of legalisation – we would have strict prohibition on sale to minors and penalties for breach of that.

Drug education is essential and is currently significantly under-prioritised. Our plan would provide a revenue stream for greater drug education campaigns including in schools and for young people.

Q: Is cannabis a gateway drug to other drugs?

A: No. Research shows that people who choose to try multiple drugs may have many personal and situational reasons for doing so that are not specifically linked to cannabis use.

Q: Will this increase crime rates?

A: No. The legalisation of cannabis will reduce crime rates by allowing people the freedom to buy legal cannabis in a shop with clear protections and a regulated market.

In countries where cannabis has been legalised, drug-related offences have fallen significantly and there has been no reported increase in property crime. In fact, research shows that crime rates actually fell in neighbourhoods with cannabis dispensaries when it was legalised in Denver, Colorado.

Pill Testing

Q: Won’t pill testing just encourage drug use?

A: If someone has purchased pills, they’re already intending to take them. By giving people information about what’s in them, we can make it safer. Instead of taking a pill with methamphetamine, fentanyl or unexpected amounts of MDMA, people are far more likely to throw it out.

A study of pill testing service users in three cities with well-established ecstasy programs – Vienna, Amsterdam and Hanover – concluded that the frequency of ecstasy use decreases when the frequency of pill testing increases.

It also showed that people who know what’s in their drugs adjust the number of pills they take according to the reported content – the more ecstasy a pill contains, the fewer pills they take.

In addition, regardless of whether it does encourage or dissuade people from taking drugs, we do know that these services will make taking drugs safer for people who choose to do so.

Q: Won’t it be too hard to change state and territory laws?

A: We don’t need to change any laws to operate these sites. Police can already choose not to target people attending drug and alcohol services, because they understand the benefits they provide.

The Australian Greens will work with police in every state and territory to ensure that this discretion is extended to our testing sites. In the future we do want to see laws changed, but that’s not needed for our pill testing plan to get started.

Q: Where will the funding come from?

A: The funding for this proposal could come from one of two national Australian Greens health initiatives: the scrapping of the private health insurance rebate, or the legalisation of cannabis. Combined, these two initiatives would put $7 billion back into our health system – enough to implement this strategy and much more.

Q: Where will these independent services actually go?

A: The first six services will be piloted in capital cities across Australia, and over the following three years twelve more will be launched, with at least four of these in major rural hubs.

Q: Don’t people already know the risks?

A: The vast majority of pills won’t end up taking a life – so for people who take drugs, it’s a gamble that they’ve already decided to take.

However, every year people lose their lives after taking dangerous pills. Our current system puts such a huge focus on the morality of drug taking, so much so that there is little room for discussion of the science.

With new illicit substances constantly appearing on the market, people often have no idea what they’re taking.

Pill testing provides a legitimate space for people to learn about the health risks they face and get support if needed.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: $16 million over the next four years. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same as the amount Australia spends on stopping illicit cigarettes coming into Australia every single year.

That will get us:

  • 18 pill testing services in major cities and rural areas, each with a world-leading testing machine. They’ll be open 10 hours a day and 4 days a week, and be staffed by three staff members and two security guards.
  • The Australian Drug Testing Agency, which will set up and direct these services, working with law enforcement, health groups and consumers.
  • A national drug warning system that will provide information about different pill varieties and provide broad advice via the internet.
    The additional funding for research will be funded through the Australian Greens commitment to adequately funding innovation and research nationwide.
Q: Isn’t pill testing inaccurate?

A: Many people would be familiar with simple and cheap online testing kits, which can give clues about pill contents via a reagent based process. They’re like a school science experiment – whereas our plan uses laboratory grade equipment.

This process is very accurate and provides a complete analysis of all the substances in a pill or powder. If more accurate methods of testing are developed, we will strongly consider implementing these in the pill testing sites as soon as feasible.

Safe Injecting Rooms

Q: Don’t safe injecting rooms actually encourage drug use?

A: Independent evaluation on the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre shows that it saves lives. It has been in place for over a decade with not a single overdose – that is what success looks like.

Q: Where will you put the safe injecting rooms?

A: There are currently safe injecting facilities in Sydney and Melbourne. These facilities have saved lives, minimised injury and provided people with a path to health care and social services.

The Greens will invest $39.4 million to establish one new safe injecting facility in each capital city. Exactly where will be determined by a scoping study to assess the areas of greatest need and suitable locations. The community will have the opportunity to feed into this scoping study.