By Emily Ledger
According to a recently published national survey, a growing proportion of Australians support the legalisation of recreational cannabis. The country’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 2019 also revealed that almost two-thirds of Australians would back the introduction of pill testing.
Australians’ Opinion on Legalisation
The results from the 2019 survey – which is conducted every three years – were published on Thursday. It revealed that, for the first time in the history of the survey, more respondents support the legalisation of cannabis (41%) than oppose it (37%). Notably, the level of support for legalisation is almost double that recorded in 2017 (21%).
The findings reflect a general trend towards more liberal drug control measures in the country. In 2019, the Australian Capital Territory passed legislation to legalise the possession, use, and cultivation of limited quantities of cannabis. However, the sale of the drug remains prohibited.
Other Illicit Drug Use
Australia’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey also assesses public opinion and habits on drug use. In addition to an increase in the proportion of Australians using cannabis (10.4% to 11.6%), illicit drug use, in general, appears to be on the rise in the country. The survey revealed that the use of cocaine (2.5% to 4.2%), ecstasy (2.2% to 3.0%), and ketamine (0.4% to 0.9%) were also up from 2016 results.
It was also revealed that almost two-thirds of the respondents would back the introduction of pill testing. The testing of pills is a harm-reduction measure that has been increasingly considered by governments around the world. The Netherlands and Portugal are among countries that already provide this service.
Respondents were also questioned about the introduction of safe injecting rooms for the first time in the survey’s history. The results revealed that more people would support (47%) than oppose (32%) the measure, which is aimed at reducing drug overdoses.
Cigarettes and Alcohol
On the other hand, smoking and alcohol use appears to be declining. The lowest proportion of daily smokers was recorded in the 2019 survey – down to 11% from 12.2% in 2016. This is believed to be due to a combination of more people opting to use e-cigarettes and younger Australians not taking up the habit.
There was also an increase in people who don’t drink alcohol – up to 8.9% from 7.6% in 2016. The proportion of young people aged 14-17 years old who have never had an alcoholic drink also saw a significant rise.