The Australian Greens party has submitted the country’s first bill for the legalisation of recreational cannabis on a national level.
The Greens’ Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023 was introduced to the country’s parliament on 10th August, days after the party released the results of a public consultation it held on its draft version, which was modified based on input from respondents.
Greens senator and spokesperson for justice David Shoebridge said: “Using the collective wisdom of thousands of contributors who shared their knowledge and experience with us, we are introducing a solidly founded bill that maps out the way to legalise cannabis across Australia.”
The party anticipates AUD28bn (USD18.2bn) in public revenue will be brought in by the cannabis legalisation scheme over the first nine years of operation.
“This is the chance for tens of thousands of quality green jobs, new small businesses, enriched regional economies, and the boon for tourism that will come with establishing a totally new legal industry,” Shoebridge said, adding that he believed the bill’s scheme would also enhance public safety and prevent the criminalisation of personal use.
“It is the opportunity to regulate the quality, strength and safety of a product that millions of Australians are already using,” he said, “and it’s the chance to radically reduce harm, by stopping 80,000 Australians a year from being caught up in the criminal justice system for possession of cannabis.”
Giving the people what they want
Price increases due to taxes and a potential market takeover by corporations were among the main concerns expressed by citizens in the Greens’ public consultation.
The Greens have recently released the results of the survey along with a list of changes to the draft bill they would make to incorporate input from nearly 9,000 Australians.
According to the Greens’ report on the consultation results, industry insiders showed an “extremely strong level of support for legalising cannabis with a single national cannabis market that allows for home grow and prioritises co-ops and small business involvement”.
Based on the consultation’s outcome, respondents are opposed to a potential overly corporatised legal cannabis system and are worried about prices being driven up by high tax rates, which would push consumers back to the black market.
The consultation found that most respondents supported the bill’s proposed tax rates as well as the cap it establishes of six plants per household.
Further input from respondents prompted a series of modifications to the bill, mainly in the areas of quality and labelling, penalties for licence breaches, home cultivation and production, minors (under-18s), and advertising.
“It’s not enough to just decriminalise cannabis,” Shoebridge said, “the community is demanding a comprehensive plan for legalisation that will provide safe access to cannabis and cannabis products, end over-policing and draw people away from the illicit market.”
In particular, the party amended the bill in order to introduce labelling requirements on safety, dosage, strength and chemical composition.
Consultation responses lead to bill amendments
The bill, the Greens said, now includes clear penalty requirements for serious or repeated breaches of licence conditions concerning not only employees but licence holders as well.
It also explicitly allows home production of brownies, gummies and other products for personal use, while at the same time requiring that homegrown cannabis is not accessible to the public.
As far as minors are concerned, the Greens said the amended bill contains new requirements for storage and gives the regulator capacity to impose measures such as child-safe containers for edibles.
The bill’s broad ban on advertising was also amended in order to allow point-of-sale advertising and authorised online presence for cafés and dispensaries.
The public consultation that resulted in the announced amendments to the bill was divided into two parts: an online survey targeting young people, cannabis users and anyone interested in the bill, and a more in-depth consultation paper for industry members, including organisations, with proven engagement in cannabis campaigning and law reform.
While 38 respondents submitted the consultation paper, 8,916 answered the online survey.
This input, the Greens said, was integrated with further suggestions and concerns expressed by citizens in “thousands of calls, social media messages and real-life conversations”.
‘Taking a huge step forward’
In September 2022, the Australian Greens party announced the launch of its plan for a first cannabis legalisation scheme on a national scale.
This, the party said, included the drafting of a bill that would then be integrated with the results of a public consultation on the scheme’s key areas, to be launched later in the year.
According to Shoebridge, the bill will end a “war on cannabis”, as consumption is still treated as a crime even though millions of Australians already use it.
“Everyone knows that it is not a matter of if we legalise cannabis in Australia, it’s a matter of when, and today we’re taking a huge step forward,” he said.
“The Greens are here to get this done, and we’ll be working hard to get the numbers to make this law.”
– Tiziana Cauli CannIntelligence staff
Photo: Xris Mi