The legalisation of marijuana is shaping as a key issue in the re-run Senate election in Western Australia because voting preference experts have identified Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP), a micro party with 6000 members, as having the best chance of success among the minor party alliance.
It is also causing headaches for the WA Greens Party as HEMP has abandoned preference deals with it and has preferenced Labor - a reversal of its position at the September election.
The party says the Greens backed out of a promise to host a drug summit in Canberra in return for HEMP's preferences.
And it has accused the WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam of being a social conservative on the issue of legalising marijuana and other drugs.
HEMP's lead WA candidate Jim Moylan blasted the Greens as ''a joke on cannabis law reform''.
''The Greens take votes away from us because people just assume they are for cannabis law reform,'' he said.
Section 8 of the Greens' federal policy document on ''drugs, substance abuse and addiction'' states: ''The Australian Greens do not support the legalisation of currently illegal drugs.''
The legalisation debate has been given extra impetus after the US state of Colorado became the first jurisdiction to allow the growth, processing and sale of marijuana for recreational use. Washington will follow suit mid-year.
Senator Ludlam rejected the social conservative tag. ''If supporting a harm-minimisation approach to illegal drug use and advocating the legalisation of medical cannabis is conservative then so be it,'' he said.
''In an environment where the old parties refuse to engage with the issue and continue to ignore the advice of health and law enforcement professionals, the Greens have consistently spoken out when the opportunity presents itself. My colleague Senator Richard Di Natale has reconstituted the Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform and the Greens will continue to work with the community for law reform.''
In the most recent preference negotiations, the Greens brokered a deal in which WikiLeaks ''ratted'' on preference deals with HEMP and other left-wing parties, including the Sex Party.
Preference experts believe if the Greens can increase their primary vote of 9.5 per cent they will likely take the final seat, with three Liberals and two Labor.
Under another potential scenario, if Senator Ludlam's renewed popularity pushed the party to a full quota (14.29 per cent) HEMP could be elected at the expense of a third Liberal - a situation that would affect the balance of power, with the Abbott government having less right-leaning cross-benchers to negotiate with.
HEMP will launch its WA Senate campaign in Perth on Tuesday with a giant inflatable joint.
The story Legalisation of cannabis could be key issue in Western Australia Senate election first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.