By Roland Sebestyén
Although Australia spends more than $1bn on policing cannabis, the Greens say if the drug were legalised $20bn would be generated in the next ten years in tax revenues and savings. Unfortunately, the government has no intention to allow adult-use. However, the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) party claims a legal cannabis market would create up to 100,000 jobs.
Experts believe Australia’s economy, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, would benefit from legalising cannabis for recreational use.
Australia has no federal legislation to control the drug. Each state and province has its own legislation in place. In most of them, local authorities enforce either criminal offences for possession, use and supply, or enact penalties.
However, in 2019, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the first jurisdiction to legalise possessing and cultivation cannabis.
According to the law, residents over 18 are able to possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis and grow two plants. However, supplying the drug is still illegal.
Back then a Labour Party lawmaker, Michael Petterson, said: “The passage of this legislation is an Australian first.
“It will work to reduce the harm of drugs in our community by reducing the stigma of drug use and encouraging people to seek help without fear of arrest.”
Leader of the HEMP party, Michael Balderstone, speaking at Australian Cannabis Summit last week said it was a massive mistake making the drug illegal in the first place.
He said: “[Cannabis] should be a health issue, totally. No one should be going to jail at all.”
Mr Balderstone added that not changing the cannabis law had massive social consequences. For instance, young people would have criminal records, which make life harder for them. Besides, families could split up and some people would even lose their jobs and houses due to the strict cannabis legislations.
At the same time, amid the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment continues to surge in Australia. According to Mr Balderstone, a legal cannabis market would contribute to the economy and see a large chunk of people getting back to work.
He said: “I think 100,000 jobs are waiting to happen in Australia if they allowed smaller licences instead of a massive corporation growing 20 acres of cannabis and employ 50 people.
“There are thousands of people who would like to make a living out of being a small supplier. [They’d] supply 50 kilos. [They’d be] boutique growers like boutique breweries or something like that. I would love to see it become smaller.”
Medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2016 in the country. However, official figures show that the vast majority of businesses are still using the black market to source their cannabis.
One of the main reasons the drug should be legal in Australia, Mr Balderstone added, is because growing cannabis in the rear garden is rather risky so that patients get their medicine from people involved in organised crime.
He said: “We’re all about regulating and taxing the drug and quality control; so, you’d get a product that’s checked.”