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  • Ziggi Murphy

Legalise It Already!

Australia should join other countries of the world in legalising cannabis. Legalising cannabis could produce a new revenue stream for important government projects while the decriminalisation aspect could produce better health outcomes as well as a reduction in ‘crime’ and less of a burden on the prison system.

In Amsterdam people have legally smoked cannabis in coffee shops since the 1970s. More recently in 2013 Uruguay announced it would be the first country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use. The move was aimed at replacing links between organised crime and the cannabis trade with more accountable state regulation.

Not long after, voters in Washington State and Colorado became the first in the US to support legalisation of the drug for non-medical use. In 2018 the Canadian federal cannabis Act came into effect on 17 October 2018 and made Canada the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to formally legalise the cultivation, possession, acquisition and consumption of cannabis and its by-products. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: "Profits out of the hands of criminals. Protection for our kids. Today #cannabis is legalised and regulated across Canada."

Mexico appears set to become the third country, after Uruguay and Canada, to legalise cannabis, with calls growing in the UK for the country to follow suit in order to protect its users from harm by offering a greater variety of strains, while reducing policing costs

Niamh Eastwood, executive director at Release, the UK’s centre of expertise on drugs and drug laws, said “the research added to the growing evidence that prohibitionist approaches to drugs, including cannabis, did not deter usage”. She also said, “Countries that have ended criminal sanctions for possession of drugs have shown they have better health, social and economic outcomes, yet the UK government continues to have an evidence-free approach when it comes to the law around drugs.”

Other countries are pushing ahead, although the sale of cannabis remains illegal, possession of small amounts is no longer a crime in countries including Brazil, Jamaica and Portugal. In Spain it is legal to use cannabis in private, while the drug is sold openly in coffee shops in the Netherlands. Still more countries allow the use of medicinal cannabis.

Legalising cannabis has shown that it reduces crime, this was reinforced by a study, published in The Economic Journal, found that the rate of violent crime – including robberies, murders and aggravated assaults – fell by 12.5 per cent in counties close to the border after the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs).

Although more research may be needed to find out why cannabis effects some people negatively this should not impact the legalisation of cannabis. Cannabis: Is it addictive? Yes, but nicotine is far more addictive. Can it cause anxiety and depression in some people? Yes, but so can alcohol. Keeping cannabis prohibited for health reasons alone no longer makes sense as research shows that tobacco and alcohol are far more dangerous. According to one study, at the individual level, booze presents the highest risk of death, followed by nicotine, cocaine and heroin, suggesting the risks of alcohol consumption have likely been underestimated in the past. Marijuana was found to be significantly less deadly and sat at the other end of the spectrum, in agreement with previous research which has consistently ranked it as the safest recreational drug.

It is time for Australia to move into the 21st century and be a leader rather than a follower in the legalisation of cannabis.

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