New research commissioned by the Penington Institute has found more than half of Victorians support decriminalising cannabis and creating a regulated market for personal adult use.

The online survey of more than 1,500 Victorians conducted late last year found 54% in favour of the move, with just 28.5% opposed and 17.5% unsure.

Meanwhile, only 21% of respondents said they thought the current laws are working well to address drug harm, while two thirds believe there should be a greater focus on education for young people rather than punishment through the criminal justice system.

And when asked about the harm caused to Victorians by specific substances, cannabis ranked below heroin/opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and even alcohol in their list of concerns.

The public health research and drug policy body said the findings mark “the highest level of support seen in an independent third-party survey in favour of cannabis regulation over criminalisation”. 

CEO John Ryan said: “More and more Victorians reject the criminalisation of cannabis and the harms inherent with this approach. Our research shows they are in favour of a model of careful, sensible cannabis regulation.”

Ryan said evidence from the ACT, which decriminalised cannabis for personal use in 2020, showed “there has been little change in consumption rates, no change in cannabis-related hospitalisations and significantly fewer cannabis-related arrests”. 

Fewer arrests means “fewer resources wasted, and less harm to otherwise law-abiding community members”, he added.

“Cannabis law enforcement costs the Australian community well in excess of A$1.7 billion per year. A regulated cannabis market can reduce the burden on our already overloaded justice and law-enforcement systems, freeing them up to focus on other, more serious crimes.

“While the ACT example shows us that removing the criminal penalties doesn’t lead to an instant rise in consumption, it still leaves many people interfacing with the criminal market if they don’t grow their own. 

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan

“Victoria has an opportunity to take the logical next step to regulate in such a way that shrinks the criminal market and helps keep people safer through a regulated supply.

“Our research confirms Victorians regard cannabis as far less harmful than other illicit drugs, and less harmful than alcohol. It shows [they] view a regulated cannabis market as a superior solution to the current criminalisation approach, especially when public health education is a core component.”

Vowing the Penington Institute would step up its campaign for drug-law reform, Ryan added: “Our current approach to managing cannabis has run its course and the time for change is now… We encourage all Victorians to support us with this important initiative.” 

Last year, Legalise Cannabis MPs introduced identical bills to allow personal consumption and home grow in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.   

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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