The push to legalise marijuana use is nothing new. The fact an Australian political party has it on their official agenda is.
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The Greens this week went public with their proposal to decriminalise marijuana, with government-regulated licences to be issued for its production and sale.
The minor party suggested the plan would raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through licencing and taxes – similar to the tobacco industry – and that other governments around the world had “realised prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than it prevents”.
It’s unlikely to get off the ground with both major parties rejecting the idea, but there is a number of elements to this discussion worth exploring.
Prime among them is the potential affect on our court system. Every week our local court is dealing with drivers alleged to have drugs in their system, or locals caught with varying amounts of illegal product and “equipment for administering” it.
While penalties would still continue for anyone distributing cannabis illegally, just as they do for supplying cigarettes or alcohol to minors or without a licence, driving “under the influence” is a much greyer area.
As yet there is no test to determine the level of “intoxication” due to illicit drugs in a driver’s system – just that they are present or not.
And even if drugs are present, who’s to determine the level of impairment?
We can do that with alcohol, even determining penalties based on the level of intoxication, with impairment from alcohol easily shown. And alcohol is perfectly legal for adults to buy, sell and consume.
There are plenty of other illicit substances requiring attention from our law enforcement agencies – the scourge of “ice” is a prime example – and perhaps legalising cannabis will free up time for those agencies to direct resources where they are more needed.
That’s not to say there are not documented health concerns for marijuana use, as well as its reputation as a “gateway drug” to harder substances.
Then again, the deadly affects of cigarettes and alcohol are just as well documented, if not more so, and we allow consenting adults the (mainly) free use of those.
Is legalising cannabis the way to go? Will regulating its production and sale work in the greater community’s favour? As always, would love to hear your thoughts.
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