A major push to legalise recreational marijuana has been launched in the ACT where a young Labor pollie claims he has overwhelming support for his bill on the issue.
If it gets enough support it would allow adults in the state to keep up to 50g of cannabis or four plants legally.
ACT backbencher Michael Pettersson said 94 per cent of people or groups that responded to his invitation to make a submission were in support of the proposal.
The intent of the bill has even received backing from the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT, the peak body for alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector.
“This polling shows that Canberrans are overwhelmingly in favour of sensible changes to our drug laws like legalising small amounts of cannabis for personal use,” Mr Pettersson told the Times.
“Cannabis legalisation is not a radical idea. There are now 10 states in the United States of America that have legalised cannabis along with Canada, South Africa and Uruguay.
“I don’t think anyone should have their life ruined with a criminal conviction for using small amounts of cannabis.
“I think it’s time we take a long, hard look at whether or not our drug laws are having the effect we want them to have and if they’re not we should have the courage to change them.”
He added that recent government research has also demonstrated that there was widespread support for cannabis legalisation — with 54 per cent of Canberrans supporting the legalisation of cannabis for personal use with only 27 per cent of Canberrans opposed.
Having 25 grams of cannabis for recreational use has been decriminalised in the ACT since 1992 — and this later increased to 50g.
Dr David Caldicott, the clinical lead at the ANU’s Australian Medicinal Cannabis Observatory told The RiotACT a bill like Mr Pettersson’s could limit the drug’s availability to underage consumers and undermine the illicit drug market in the ACT.
“From a public health perspective, there are merits to an argument of a regulated market. It is likely to be met by howls of abuse from more conservative commentators who probably don’t understand the policy implications,” he said.
“The likelihood is that overall it will reduce the harm from drugs. Very few people would argue that increased availability of cannabis would make the city a healthier environment but it is entirely possible that regulating the environment will make cannabis less available.”
It comes after new research shows seven people a day are being approved for medicinal cannabis and the $ 18 million industry in Australia could be worth billions within a decade.
Access to the drug is still severely restricted two years after its medicinal use was legalised nationally but a new online application system has increased approvals in recent months.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved 469 applications for the drug under the Special Access Scheme between August and September. That’s up from just 97 between January and February.
The TGA notes it is unable to calculate patient numbers accurately and it’s possible for one patient to have multiple applications approved.
Australia’s cannabis industry could grow even more with a recreational market worth up to $ 8.8 billion annually in a decade if it is legalised soon, the report says.