Recreational cannabis use will be legalised “a lot quicker than expected” thanks to a combination of people power and political persuasion, delegates at the Australian Cannabis Summit were told at the weekend.
Legalise Cannabis WA MP Dr Brian Walker said the political makeup of the state’s recently formed Select Committee into Cannabis and Hemp — with three Labor members giving it a government majority — could prove crucial.
“It would be very difficult for [the government] to say no” if the committee recommends legalisation, he said, adding the medical defence to a positive roadside test for THC was a “no-brainer” that will open the floodgates to further reform.
Dr Walker said while he and fellow Legalise Cannabis WA MP Sophia Moermond have been working to normalise the cannabis conversation in parliament, and to present the facts to colleagues, it was vital to engage the community as well as politicians.
“We need to get a measure of anger in the community. ‘We’re losing not just millions but billions of dollars, people are suffering, people are dying… we demand that you, our representatives, do something’.”
A combination of public anger, strong scientific arguments and smart politics would allow the community to come together “much like voluntary assisted dying and the gay marriage debates”, he added.
Moermond told delegates the party is planning to bring a bill on driving impairment to parliament next year. It is also drafting separate legislation to allow people to grow up to eight plants for medicinal purposes and two for recreational use.
Meanwhile, former chief of staff to Reason Party MP Fiona Patten Jorian Gardner said Legalise Cannabis Victoria is very close to having the numbers to register and run in the state’s election in November 2022 and has an opportunity to match WA by electing two MPs.
He said the size of the crossbench in Victoria — with 25% to 30% of upper house MPs currently not from Labor, Liberal or the Greens — could see a post-election landscape with “a crossbench which holds the balance of power that all want to legalise cannabis”.
Gardner stressed the need to also run candidates at next year’s federal election, even if the chances of winning a seat are slim.
He added: “We need to provide Australians with the opportunity to say ‘yes, I want to legalise cannabis’. It’s still a poll, it’s still an opportunity for thousands of people to send a message.”