Last week, NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann introduced the Cannabis Legalisation Bill 2021 to the State Senate.
Now before you get your hopes up, this bill is not going to be passed into law. It won’t even pass the Senate. But that’s not the point – this is the Greens demonstrating their commitment to cannabis legalisation, and getting the issue on the agenda to be debated.
So this is an important piece of legislation that may end up influencing whatever recreational cannabis policy we end up with down the track. And it also gives us some idea about what the Greens expect the major parties, the public, and the media will say in response. A bit of shadow boxing, if you will. And it’s got some quirks that could do with a bit of a re-think, in my opinion.
To preface this, I support cannabis legalisation and I appreciate this bill is not necessarily intended to provide detailed answers to every question about how that might happen. So please take this as well-intentioned and constructive criticism.
Why legalise cannabis?
“Prohibition of cannabis creates far more harm than good, and it just does not work. It has not reduced cannabis use. It has not reduced harm. It has not reduced the amount of cannabis available on the black market. But it has made a lot of criminals very rich. It places a massive drain on the criminal justice system. It results in disproportionately high rates of criminal convictions and harassment of our First Nations people.” – Cate Faehrmann.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. And it’s clear from Faehrmann’s second reading speech that this proposal fits squarely in the field of harm reduction. There is a focus on protecting consumer health, preventing underage access, and controlling for product potency, quality and price.
But in my opinion, the model proposed in this bill could struggle to achieve these objectives. And that’s largely due to the central role of the proposed NSW Cannabis Authority.
The NSW Cannabis Authority
In Feahrmann’s bill, there are two broad categories of licences: production and distribution.