Wide support for cannabis legalisation in Senate submissions


There is strong support from more than a dozen key stakeholders across the country for the Greens plan to legalise cannabis. The support comes from organisations as diverse as the Pennington Institute, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform, Australian Lawyers Alliance, Drive Change and Harm Reduction Australia.

Of course there is opposition from groups that have opposed serious drug law reform for decades, including some police unions. Other bodies such as the AMA have taken a surprising approach to cannabis legalisation that is inconsistent with recent previous statements on drug law reform.

This level of constructive engagement with the Greens’ plan to legalise cannabis nationally will almost certainly produce a highly engaged senate inquiry that will be a critical step on the way to reform. 

Greens Senator and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“The Greens welcome the strong support for the Legalising Cannabis Bill from so many key stakeholders across the country. 

“The level of engagement with our proposal to legalise cannabis is a strong indication of just how much support there is for this Bill across Australia.

“Many stakeholders acknowledged the obvious fact that an illegal market for cannabis already exists in Australia and that illegal market causes harms ranging from criminalisation to poor public health outcomes.

“A legal market immediately reduces harm to almost 60,000 people every year who will no longer get dragged into the criminal justice system for the crime of cannabis possession.

“Of course there is traditional opposition from vested interests who benefit from criminalisation including some police bodies and some existing commercial players. This is to be expected with any serious reform.

“The Greens welcome the constructive engagement from so many organisations looking for ways to improve the Bill and improve the public health and public interest outcomes that flow from cannabis legalisation.

“It is disappointing to see the inconsistency in the approach to drug law reform from the AMA who, as recently as January 2023, publicly acknowledged the positive health outcomes achieved in jurisdictions such as Portugal from non-punitive approaches to drug use.”

Comments from stakeholder submissions regarding the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023:

All Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (ACT) Inc.
“This submission urges you to identify the “sweet spot” for cannabis. Most of the harm caused by cannabis comes from the police, courts and jails. Moving to a regulated system reduces the need to participate in the illegal production and supply of cannabis and can reduce the harm of maximum prohibition and move us to the sweet spot without going to maximum liberalisation as had occurred with other potentially addictive activities like gambling and consumption of tobacco and alcohol, where commercial interests profit from promoting harmful patterns of consumption.

“The tight complex regulatory scheme is welcome in that it would prevent the exploitative commercialisation as has existed in relation to other addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco.” 

The Australian Lawyers Alliance
“The ALA, therefore, welcomes the advent of the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023 which represents a significant step away from Australia’s current approach modelled on criminalisation. Such an approach has shown little success in reducing illicit drug use in general.

“The ALA supports the proposal to implement legalisation in the manner proposed by the Bill, that is, through the registration and licencing of cannabis strains. Such a system allows for the growth, manufacture and distribution of cannabis to become legal and also regulated by law enforcement. On the other-hand, decriminalisation prevents the safe operation of a cannabis business.”

National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University (NDRI)
“Overall, we see the Bill to be well intended and consistent with the developing research evidence on the impact of cannabis legalisation schemes and expert advice and recommendations regarding the potential public health benefits of middle ground, rather than fully commercial profit-driven, models of cannabis legalisation. We also note the following specific elements of the Bill as beneficial and in keeping with the public health evidence: 
1. Exclusion of persons involved in the manufacture of alcohol or alcohol products, tobacco or tobacco products, or pharmaceutical products from being able to receive a licence under Section 27 or engage in activities under Section 10. 
2. Permitting cultivation of cannabis not more than 6 plants per household. 
3. Allowing small scale social supply of cannabis where the value of the cannabis is not more than $50 under Section 20 (d). 
4. Allowing for Cannabis Social Clubs under Section 27 (2) (b), a not-for-profit co-operative that is registered on a State or Territory co-operatives register. 
5. Generally appropriate conditions for location and operation of cannabis cafes under Section 30. 6. Public health consistent requirements for labelling, packaging and storage of cannabis products under Section 32.”

Pennington Institute
“Penington Institute endorses several elements of the Legalise Cannabis Bill 2023. These include the following: 
• Allowing cultivation of cannabis plants in households for personal use, although we observe that there is debate around the optimal number of plants that should be permitted per household. Canada, for instance, established a limit of four plants per household, which was found during a review to be generally satisfactory to the small proportion of people who choose to grow. 
• The distribution of cannabis via dispensaries and dedicated cannabis cafes, including those organised as not-for-profit cooperatives. We further endorse the separation of sites offering alcohol sales and consumption from sites offering cannabis sales and consumption. 
• The proposed minimum age of 18, as well as the removal of criminal penalties for all offences committed by those under 18 years of age and for all people consuming cannabis in prohibited areas.”

Drug Policy Modelling Program UNSW
“We commend the efforts underpinning this Bill to address harms that exist within the current cannabis legislative landscape in Australia. These harms include: 
• the criminalisation of personal use/possession (Lenton & Heale, 2000; Lenton et al., 2000) 
• the reliance on fines in decriminalisation and diversion schemes (Hughes et al., 2018; see also McCarron et al., 2008) 
• uneven policing in decriminalisation and diversion schemes (Baker & Goh, 2004; Hughes et al., 2019; Taperski & Rahman, 2023; see also McCausland & Baldry, 2023) 
• unregulated supply (Armstrong, 2021; Fischer et al., 2022; Lynskey et al., 2016).

“We look forward to Australia making progress on cannabis regulation. It is an area requiring long-overdue policy reform, in light of the substantial harms of the current recreational cannabis policies across Australia.”

Harm Reduction Australia and Drive Change
“The removal of criminal sanctions for these low-level offences would help to reduce the negative impact of the current laws on individuals and their families as well as reducing the burden on law enforcement and judicial systems.

“As noted above, we are supportive of the Legalising Cannabis Bill as it presents an opportunity to divert people away from the criminal justice system, and encourage a harm minimisation approach on the use of cannabis.”

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
“According to the latest Criminal Intelligence Report (Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (2023), there were 66,285 arrests across Australia in 2020/21 for consuming or providing (selling) cannabis. The vast bulk of these arrests (59,353 or 90%) were for using or possessing cannabis.”

List and links to stakeholder submissions on the Legalising Cannabis Bill:
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (PDF 135 KB
Althea Group Holdings Ltd (PDF 266 KB
Australian Lawyers Alliance (PDF 228 KB
National Drug Research Institute (PDF 192 KB
360Edge (PDF 371 KB
Penington Institute (PDF 313 KB
Astrid Dispensary and Clinic (PDF 239 KB
Plant Playground (PDF 361 KB
Drug Policy Modelling Program, Social Policy Research Centre (PDF 395 KB
Harm Reduction Australia and Drive Change (PDF 133 KB
Ganjika Pty Ltd (PDF 126 KB
Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform (PDF 748 KB


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