Cannabis bid burned

Health min­is­ter blocks move to le­galise use of il­licit drug

The Cairns Post - - NATION -

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.

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