Cannabis bid burned
Health minister blocks move to legalise use of illicit drug
A PUSH by the Australian Greens to legalise cannabis use has been rejected by the Turnbull government.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has called for reforms to the existing prohibition, saying the country’s approach to illicit drugs is an “unmitigated disaster”.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt called on the party to withdraw its suggestion, arguing it risked Australians’ health.
“Marijuana is a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented,” the minister said.
“We do not believe it is safe, responsible or something which should be allowed.”
Asked why the government wouldn’t want the tax revenue, Mr Hunt said it didn’t want to put Australians’ mental health at risk. But Senator Di Natale argues governments around the world are realising that cannabis prohibition causes more harm than it prevents.
“It’s time Australia joined them,” he said.
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 those licences and oversee regulation.
It would act as the single wholesaler for cannabis – buying from producers and selling it to retail stores.
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 in revenue, helping fund treatment, education and other harm-reduction programs.
Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said his party had long held the view of legalising marijuana, criticising the 80,000 cannabis-related arrests each year. Crossbench Senator Derryn Hinch backed the Greens, saying “you’d ban alcohol and cigarettes” too if the argument was it’s bad for you.