The Greens’ bill to legalise adult use has been opposed by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) who claimed it would send the wrong public health message.
Under the plan, introduced to the federal parliament by Senator David Shoebridge in August, adult recreational use would be permitted, paving the way for legal home grow of up to six plants and a commercial cannabis market across the country.
Shoebridge cited a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office, commissioned by the Greens, which suggested the move could generate A$28 billion in taxes over 10 years.
However, in its submission to the Senate Parliamentary Inquiry into the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023, the AMA claimed it would increase adverse health impacts and place further pressure on the healthcare system.
The body also cited concerns about young people accessing the drug – despite the proposals specifically containing measures to limit sales to people aged 18 and over.
The submission said: “The AMA believes that if cannabis was legalised for recreational purposes, it would indicate to the public that cannabis use is not harmful.
“Allowing people to grow up to six plants in their home may normalise frequent cannabis use and will make large quantities of cannabis even more accessible to young people.”
It added cannabis use should be “treated first and foremost as a health issue” instead of a criminal matter.
“When cannabis users come into contact with the police or courts, the opportunity should be taken to divert those users to preventive, educational and therapeutic options that they would not otherwise access,” the AMA said.
While acknowledging there was evidence cannabis played a role in treating some medical conditions, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) claimed legalisation could have adverse impacts on mental health among other issues.
Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute described the bill as “well intended and consistent with the developing research evidence on the impact of cannabis legalisation schemes” but expressed concerns about the registration of strains.