The federal government has rejected a petition to legalise and decriminalise THC and CBD by rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule 3 medicine.
The petition, which attracted around 10,000 signatures, also called on the government to “regulate cannabis products bought, sold and produced in Australia for medical and/or recreational use”.
In a written response, health minister Greg Hunt said the government was “committed to preventing and reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs” under its National Drug Strategy.
“The strategy identifies cannabis as a priority substance for action and outlines a range of evidence-based approaches to minimise harm associated with cannabis use,” he wrote.
Hunt said while the potential harms from cannabis use depend on age, pattern of usage, risk behaviours and health concerns — and while many Australians view it as harmless — “approximately 20% of Australia’s drug and alcohol treatment services are being provided to people identifying cannabis as their principal drug of concern”.
He added: “The government does not support any measure that could imply that illicit drugs are safe or may increase their availability or consumption. As such, it does not support the legalisation, decriminalisation and/or use of any quantity of illicit drugs.”
While pointing out that state and territory governments are “largely” responsible for legislating on illicit drugs, Hunt reiterated Australia’s international drug control obligations, particularly the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 “which prohibits the cultivation, supply and possession of cannabis”.
Hunt outlined the process by which the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) classifies medicines into schedules, stating any new evidence that may warrant a change to scheduling status should be put before the regulator.
He added: “In regard to using cannabis for medical reasons, the TGA provides safe and legal access to medicinal cannabis products in appropriate circumstances.”