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Legalize Cannabis Australia did well in the election, but reform is likely to come with a cautious approach


Support for cannabis legalization probably comes from monitoring the legalization of cannabis for leisure in countries around the world. Examples include Uruguay, Malta, Mexico, South Africa, Canada and a number of United States states.

Interestingly, very few Australians indicate that they would have used cannabis if it had been legalized.

More than 78 percent of respondents in the 2019 survey said they would not use cannabis, even if it is legal.

Only 9.5% said they would “try” and 9.2% said they would “use it about as often as they do now”.

But the question of whether voters support a political proposal in the abstract may not tell us much about how much they will support it if it becomes a pressing political issue.

We saw this game in the New Zealand cannabis referendum in 2020. There, 51% of voters rejected the legalization of cannabis, despite early opinion polls in 2020. strong support.

As the debate over cannabis legalization has become more of a topic of discussion, support for legalization gradually narrowing and finally turned over just before election day. After all, New Zealand is narrow voted against.

Opponents argued that the normalization effect could encourage teens to start using cannabis or that there would be more drug-affected drivers on the road. Some have argued that there will be unpredictable consequences for lung health and mental health.

There is mixed evidence for each of these provisions, however the discussion itself made voters more wary of change.

One of the important lessons of cannabis law reform over the past few decades is that voters prefer a gradual and balanced approach to drug liberalization.

Voters must be convinced that the legalization of currently banned drugs will successfully reduce the damage to health and social sphere.

One important lesson from the last few decades of cannabis law reform is that voters prefer a gradual approach to drug liberalization.Credit:iStock

One academic analysis about the failure of the referendum in New Zealand noted that the proposed bill does not take into account voters’ concerns about potency, reducing the black market and normalizing cannabis consumption.

The libertarian-style argument in favor of legalizing cannabis focuses on “freedom of choice”. unlikely relocate voters who are already concerned about the harm of legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco.

A more tolerant approach centered around harm reduction and regulation of best practicesmore in line with voter values.


The transition directly from a criminal environment regarding cannabis to full legalization may also be too quick for some voters. A gradual change in cannabis policy is likely to gain support.

For example, states that adopt cannabis policies (as Australia has done) are prone to this. move faster to legalize cannabis for recreation than in other jurisdictions.

One intermediate step that has already taken place to varying degrees ACT, the Northern Territory and South Australia are decriminalizing cannabis storage and use.

Mela strong consistent support for decriminalizing cannabis in all states and territories of Australia for several years.

Decriminalization is a good introductory step toward considering cannabis use as a health problem rather than criminal justice.

In general, Australia is growing in support of cannabis law reform. But change is likely to be much slower than liberalization advocates had hoped.

Jerid Bartle is a session lecturer at RMIT University. This article is reprinted from The Conversation.


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