Victorian cannabis legalisation is welcome next step

22nd Nov 2023

Legalising the adult recreational use of cannabis in Victoria is the logical next step in drug policy reform and is supported by evidence globally, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

The ALA welcomes Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s Regulation of Personal Adult Use of Cannabis Bill 2023 which will allow adults to use and possess small amounts (50 grams) of cannabis and to cultivate no more than six cannabis plants at the person’s place of residence for personal use.

“Criminalising the use of cannabis has been a monumental failure – there has been no decrease in use as a result,” said Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance. “Wasting court, police and lawyers’ time and resources with cannabis charges needs to end.

“Legalising cannabis will help to take cannabis out of the illicit market and out of the hands of drug dealers, save money by reducing the costs to the criminal justice system, including enforcement, and make it easier for people to seek help when, and if, they need it.

“Politicians who oppose this Bill are sanctioning failed prohibition policies and continuing the scandalous waste of resources on law enforcement.

“In the US many states have legalised cannabis for all purposes and in Canada it is legal. Introducing this legislation in Australia is a logical next step and is based on evidence globally.”

The Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s Bill is modelled on the ACT legislation which has been in operation since 2020. The ACT’s health-led response has seen arrests for simple cannabis offences decrease by 90 per cent in the 12 months since the law changed and there has been no increase in cannabis related traffic accidents or hospital presentations.

“The research in Australia shows that more and more people believe that using cannabis should not make you a criminal,” said Mr Barns SC. “Every year millions of dollars are spent on the pointless prosecution of drug users, clogging our court systems, and resulting in people – especially young people – ending up with criminal records that last a lifetime. 

“Taxpayer funds are wasted prosecuting people who use cannabis, and police time is wasted charging them.  We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and homeless people are also disproportionately affected by the current drug laws.”

Over one third of Victorian adults have consumed cannabis in their lifetime and more young people consume cannabis than tobacco.

“Australia’s current emphasis on law enforcement and punishment has not reduced cannabis use. Laws are only worthwhile and effective if they are respected by the community. If a law is regularly flouted, this is a telling sign that it has lost its authority and should be repealed. This is the case with our current cannabis laws and this bill will address this,” said Mr Barns SC.

Tags: Law reform drugs