The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA)  is proposing legislation to decriminalise cannabis use in Tasmania, but Attorney-General Elise Archer has already rejected the move.

The ALA has drafted the Cannabis Decriminalisation Bill 2021 to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 and decriminalise the non-commercial cultivation, possession, and use of small quantities of cannabis.

ALA spokesperson and Edwards Coke Chambers barrister Fabiano Cangelosi said the war on drugs had been lost, a sentiment shared by citizen lobbyists who are using ePetitions to call for the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

ALA spokesperson and Edwards Coke Chambers barrister Fabiano Cangelosi

Cangelosi added: “We have argued for many years that the possession and use of illicit substances should be decriminalised and preferably legalised. However, there is now increasing evidence from a range of countries, and from the ACT, to show that this approach will work.

“Studies show that decriminalising or legalising drugs does not increase use, but instead allows an increased focus on health and social support for users.”

Cangelosi said introducing the legislation would show the government recognises drug use is complex and often linked to hardship and social issues. 

He added: “The criminalisation of drug use just exacerbates these problems, which are often both causes and symptoms of substance abuse.

“Globally, there is increasing recognition of the need to keep non-violent drug users out of the criminal justice system and it is time that Tasmanian laws reflected this awareness.”

The group said the existing evidence should give confidence that Tasmania can safely reform its approach to drug use and possession and move away from an emphasis on law enforcement to a focus on the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs.

However, Archer said while the Tasmanian Government supports the use of medicinal cannabis, the ALA’s proposal is a step too far.

She added: “Recreational use of cannabis is illegal for a reason and that is because it can lead to more complex health and other issues.”

Tasmania recently reformed its Controlled Access Scheme allowing GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

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Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...

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