Shifting public sentiment on the use of cannabis in Tasmania must be reflected by the state’s government, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has insisted, after a new survey found growing support to decriminalise small-scale cultivation.
The ALA said it was “clearly time” for the courts to no longer prosecute people found in possession of cannabis, and to adopt a health-based approach to drug use.
The call follows research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in which found 83% of Tasmanians believe it should no longer be a criminal offence to possess cannabis for personal use.
The ALA, which drafted a Cannabis Decriminalisation Bill last year to amend Tasmania’s Misuse of Drugs Act, said the results demonstrate changing attitudes towards the drug.
“It is clearly time for the government to listen to the community on this issue,” said Fabiano Cangelosi, a barrister and ALA spokesperson. “We drafted a bill that is ready to go and simple for the government to implement.”
He said there is growing evidence that a health-based approach to drug use is required, which is being recognised by the public.
“We need to legalise and regulate drug use to save lives. The war on drugs has been lost and people are dying because of our system,” Cangelosi said. “The results from the AIWH survey show that community attitudes in Tasmania are changing. Our laws must be updated to reflect these changing expectations.
“Introducing legislation would show that the government is finally listening to the community and paying attention to current evidence.”
The ALA said criminalising drug use does nothing to tackle a “complex issue” which is often linked to financial hardship, mental illness and abuse.
“The evidence is there and it should give confidence that, in Tasmania, we can safely reform our approach to drug use and possession,” Cangelosi said. “The quicker we move from the current emphasis on law enforcement to a focus on the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs, the more lives can be saved.”