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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (28 November) . . Page.. 4943 ..


That the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018 be referred to the Standing Committee on Health, Ageing and Community Services.

This is an interesting debate. It is one worth examining closely. I think we should always be looking at areas of reform, be it drug reform or other areas where we are principally concerned about the harm that substances cause to people, particularly young people and vulnerable groups.

While this is a multifaceted issue, and Mr Pettersson in his speech talked about a range of issues in relation to criminal justice, organised crime and so on, I think we would agree that the most concerning issues to us are the health issues. Indeed, that is why Minister Fitzharris has adjourned this bill. That is why I think it is important that we—

Government members interjecting—

There is mirth from the other side; I am not quite sure why. There are mixed views on this issue, and there are arguments on both sides. I accept that Mr Pettersson is not trying to liberalise drugs for any improper reason. I think that his view is about trying to improve health outcomes, principally. He has a particular view. I have articulated the Canberra Liberals' view that this is not the way to approach it, that this is not the way to proceed. But I do not think this is an issue that all the evidence is clear on. We need to tread very carefully and fully understand the consequences of what Mr Pettersson has proposed. I do not see any need to rush on this matter.

Medical cannabis, for example, was referred to a committee. The committee system that we have is designed to look at these sorts of areas of complex legislation where there may be significant impacts on the broader community that we do not fully understand, particularly on the health of, as I said, vulnerable people. This is where the committee system can play a role.

As Mr Pettersson has alluded to, there are significant health issues with regard to personal cannabis use. I refer to what the AMA has had to say about Mr Pettersson's proposal. I refer to the submission to Mr Pettersson on his bill, which was also provided to the Greens and to the opposition. These are the words of the AMA:

... as medical professionals, the AMA ACT is concerned that certain groups within the population are more at risk of the deleterious effects of cannabis. The research base on cannabis and psychosis is highly contentious, but despite the limitations, it is worth highlighting the findings presented at last year's International Early Psychosis Association, which is indicative of a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. In examining a sample of over 3 million people, researchers found that cannabis abuse increased the risk, by five times, of developing schizophrenia.

That is five times.

Concerningly, the same research also showed that maternal and paternal cannabis abuse increased the risk of schizophrenia in offspring. For the mother, it was associated with a sixfold increase and for the father a 5.5 fold increase in risk.


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