inquiry into this bill heard no evidence that would justify a recommendation
for the bill to not be passed. Furthermore, the evidence confirmed that the
status quo is untenable.
intent of the bill is to remove Commonwealth offences and civil penalty
provisions for dealings in cannabis, leaving it to State and Territory
governments to legalise and regulate cannabis. As the inquiry heard, widespread
domestic cultivation generally makes the trafficking of herbal cannabis into
Australia unnecessary and unprofitable.
of the bill would not make recreational cannabis legal, but would allow genuine
competitive federalism as each jurisdiction determined its own course and learnt
from each other's experience.
policy of prohibition is a failure. Cannabis is the most widely used illicit
drug in Australia, as confirmed by the Australian Institute of Health and
Welfare (AIHW) 2016 household survey which showed for people aged 14 and over
in Australia, 35 per cent (or approximately 6.9 million people) had used cannabis
in their lifetime and 10.4 per cent (or 2.1 million) had used cannabis in the
prior 12 months.
futility of a crime-based approach was confirmed by Mr Mick Palmer, former
Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, whose submission stated:
reality is that, contrary to frequent assertions, drug law enforcement has had
little impact on the Australian drug market or for that matter, on the drug
markets of most, if not all, countries in the world.
police are better resourced, better trained, and more effective than ever and
yet their impact on the drug trade, on any objective assessment, has been
is not necessary to approve of cannabis or to recommend it, in order to accept
the futility of the current policy.
of the bill pointed to the cost of maintaining a policy of prohibition - the
resources committed to law enforcement, lives damaged by criminal convictions
(80,000 cannabis arrests in 2015-16), profits for organised crime, and links to
criminals who sell more harmful illegal drugs. They also claim more
consideration should be given to relative harm, for example in comparison with
reservations of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regarding the bill
warrant a specific response.
TGA claimed the proposed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act would mean
Australia was no longer compliant with its international treaty obligations,
which would affect its ability to cultivate opiates for medicinal use and
compete with countries such as Turkey, Portugal, Spain and India.
legalisation of cannabis would have no impact on the cultivation of opium
poppies in Tasmania and it is difficult to believe the International Narcotics
Control Board would fail to recognise that. Moreover, cannabis is already legal
in Spain, deregulated in Portugal, and freely available in Turkey and India.
In the largest producer of legal opium, the Czech Republic, up to 180g of cannabis
dry matter can be legally obtained on prescription from pharmacies.
any case, Australia should not base its policies on the potential for an
irrational application of international treaties.
TGA argued that passage of the bill, with its provision preventing cannabis
from being listed on the Poisons Standard, would result in an absence of
quality controls on medicinal cannabis and an inability to approve therapeutic
claims for cannabis extracts.
concern in relation to quality controls is not valid; existing consumer
safeguards would continue to apply. However this concern, as well as the issue
of registered claims, can be easily addressed through a minor amendment to the
bill to allow those products to be scheduled (much like nicotine in patches and
gums) while otherwise excluding cannabis from the Poisons Standard (much like
nicotine prepared and packed for smoking).
concern of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, which says the bill introduces drug
offences relating to the defence force that involve a reversal of the onus of
proof, is not correct. In fact, the bill merely removes cannabis from existing
drug offences. The confusion arises from the fact that the bill achieves this
by first repealing the existing offences and then reinserts identical offences
but with references to cannabis removed.
Liberal Democrats believe public policy on drugs should not be based on
disapproval, but on harm. A growing number of countries agree and it is time
Australia did as well.
the bill be passed subject to a minor amendment to allow therapeutic claims to
be made for cannabis extracts.
Senator David Leyonhjelm
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