The Greens have vowed to legalise cannabis nationally should they hold the balance of power after the federal election on May 21.
The party said decades of failed policy has seen state and national police fighting a damaging and futile war against cannabis and “the millions of Australians who have used it in their lifetime”.
NSW Senate candidate David Shoebridge added: “The greatest harm from Australia’s current cannabis laws comes from the police, courts and jails that criminalise users and at the same time empower organised crime.”
Shoebridge and Greens candidate for the northern NSW seat of Page, Kashmir Miller, were in Nimbin on Monday to call for urgent reform.
Miller said of the party’s policy: “The reality is that many people in our community use cannabis and our health-based approach meets that reality.
“By legalising cannabis, we can establish a regulated industry which will raise A$4.4 billion in revenue that can be used to build schools, hospitals and help with the recovery of the climate catastrophe facing the Page community.”
Under its legalisation blueprint, the Greens plan to establish an Australian Cannabis Agency that would issue licences for production and sale. The agency would also act as the single wholesaler of legally accessible cannabis, and police the regulations.
Licensed growers would be required to produce cannabis containing specific levels of THC and CBD.
The party would also establish retail stores that only over-18s could enter. The stores would only be permitted to sell cannabis in plain packaging – with visible health warnings – and require staff to undertake a responsible sale of cannabis course.
While Dutch-style cannabis cafes would not form part of the initial plan, a two-year review would allow regulations to be tweaked or reformed, the policy states.
The regulatory framework would allow users to grow up to six plants at home for personal use for people aged over 18, while rules would also limit the amount someone would be able to buy, and carry.
Advertising would be banned, the Greens stressed.
The party added that harm reduction would be “absolutely central to our plan”.
“We know that some people experience negative impacts to their mental health as a result of taking cannabis,” the party stated. “That’s exactly why we need to move drug policy in Australia towards a health-based approach, and to bring the production and sale of cannabis into a tightly regulated market.
“We need to ensure people have access to information about the quality and strength of the product they are buying, which would be facilitated by the Cannabis Agency. We also need to make it easier for people who need support to access the services they need, including by making mental healthcare free under Medicare.”
Its policy stressed that protecting young people from cannabis would be a “key objective”, with strict rules banning sale to minors.
As long as cannabis remains illegal, the production and supply of cannabis will remain underground and unchecked, the party added.
“The ‘war on drugs’ approach has done nothing to stop or even reduce cannabis use in Australia so the huge law enforcement response to illegal cannabis supply is an expensive failure,” the Greens said.
“Legalising cannabis will redirect these wasted resources to the things that matter, like health education and harm reduction.
“It will also create a commercial market that will generate countless jobs in the production, cultivation and distribution of cannabis products.”