Australia’s Minister of Health is knocking down hopes that a Green Party plan to legalize cannabis for adult use in Australia could see the light of day, saying the government would oppose any such plan.
“Our job is to protect the health of Australians,” Hunt said. “This action by the Greens risks the health of Australians.” Hunt, like many people who haven’t really looked into the cannabis issue, believes marijuana is a gateway to other drugs, an assertion that has been debunked time and time again.
In a statement accompanying the announcement earlier this week, Richard Di Natale of the Green Party in Australia said the government should treat “drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue” and that prohibition “drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market. Our plan to create a legal market for cannabis production and sale will reduce the risks, bust the business model of criminal dealers and syndicates and protect young people from unfair criminal prosecutions.”
The plan itself, if it were to become law, would legalize marijuana possession and use for all adults aged 18 and up, allow adults to grow up to 6 plants at home for personal use and would create a government agency that would act as a middleman between cannabis cultivators and the shops that would sell the products.
While the passage of the country’s medical marijuana law got broad support in Parliament in 2016, it seems recreational legalization will follow a much more difficult path to reality.
“Banning cannabis hasn’t reduced its use or availability yet it has distracted police from following up more serious crimes, harmed a lot of young people and helped make some criminals rich,” said Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.
Activists and politicians who support marijuana legalization are at the beginning of a long road in Australia. Medical cannabis is brand new, and it’s not easy to change the laws and stigma that surround a plant that has been demonized and prohibited for decades.
Legalization laws in states in the U.S. and impending legalization in Canada will likely speed up the process for those in Australia, giving politicians there real-world examples in the developed world of how legalization affects a country.
In any case, the conversation is started, which will cause many in Australia to research the issue for themselves, and that can only be good news for those who support marijuana law reform.