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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3747 ..


They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well, history has shown us that prohibition is a failed policy and that “just say no” does not work. It is time for a commonsense, evidence-based approach. It is time to legalise the personal use of cannabis in the ACT.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia according to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in their report Organised Crime in Australia 2017. The national drug household strategy survey 2016 found that 35 per cent of Australians have used cannabis and 10 per cent have used it in the last year. That means one in three Australians will try the drug in their lifetime, despite the prohibitionist “just say no” campaign. If any other policy was such a dismal failure, it would have been scrapped long ago.

Cannabis is not a particularly harmful substance in comparison to other legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medication. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, in their report on the impact of alcohol and illicit drug use on the burden of disease and injury in Australia, alcohol represents 4.6 per cent of the total disease burden, tobacco nine per cent and cannabis only 0.1 per cent.

In 2016 the misuse of prescription drugs such as codeine and other opioids caused more deaths than all illicit drugs combined. Tobacco and alcohol combined to kill around 20,000 Australians last year and each and every year.

A common argument against cannabis is that it is a gateway drug that will encourage people to try harder substances. This is simply untrue and a massive simplification of both external and internal factors surrounding drug dependency. Most users of cannabis do not go on to try harder drugs. I am not saying that cannabis does not have any negative effects; people can suffer adverse effects from its use. But when compared to the health impact of other legal drugs, the case for criminalisation just does not stack up.

In the ACT on average almost one Canberran a day is arrested for cannabis consumption and over 50 per cent of all drug-related arrests are cannabis consumers—that is, people are caught with a small amount of cannabis for personal use. Valuable police resources are being wasted focusing on recreational marijuana users who are causing no harm except to themselves.

By legalising cannabis we can prevent recreational users from getting criminal records and can allocate police resources to focus on real criminals. Putting people into the criminal justice system creates an unnecessary harm that has a flow-on effect to the wider community. Getting caught with a small amount of cannabis should not ruin a person’s life. We need to legalise it.

From a law and order perspective, the second benefit of legalised cannabis is that it will stop money going into the hands of organised crime. Rather than bikie gangs controlling the sale of cannabis and taking the profits, Canberrans can grow their own


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