Health minister Greg Hunt has slapped down the Greens’ proposal to legalise recreational cannabis as “dangerous and medically irresponsible”
This week Greens leader Richard Di Natale announced the party’s plan to legalise cannabis for adult use, saying that the current approach to drugs is an “unmitigated disaster”.
“The war on drugs has failed. Governments around the world are realising that prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than it prevents. It’s time Australia joined them and legalised cannabis for adult use,” Dr Di Natale said.
“Prohibition has failed. Using cannabis remains illegal, but this has not stopped Australians from using it.
“As a drug and alcohol doctor, I’ve seen that the ‘tough on drugs’ approach causes enormous harm. It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market.
“The Greens see drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Our plan to create a legal market for cannabis production and sale will reduce the risks, bust the business model of criminal dealers and syndicates and protect young people from unfair criminal prosecutions.
Under the Greens’ plan, cannabis would be redefined as a legal substance in a regulated market, and resources would be redirected into treatment.
The plan would establish an Australian Cannabis Agency to issue licenses for production and sale of cannabis, monitor and enforce license conditions and review and monitor the regulatory scheme to ensure it is functioning properly.
Under the proposal, cannabis would only be available from “licensed retailers” who would be subject to ongoing strict rules, monitoring and evaluation. There would be “strong sanctions” for those who breach their licenses.
The Greens urged Australians to consider models operating in the US, Spain and Uruguay as examples of how legalising cannabis could lead to a reduction in crime.
Under the Uruguayan model, recreational cannabis is sold through pharmacies, and leader of the Reason Party (formerly the Sex Party) Fiona Patten told the AJP last year that Australian pharmacies would be “ideally suited” to dispense the drug.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt is not keen, telling reporters that “cannabis has very serious risks in relation to physical health, and in particular, to mental health”.
“That’s why it’s a highly regulated drug,” the Minister said.
“There are medicinal purposes for medicinal uses, as prescribed by doctors, but this proposal for open slather has two major consequences.
“The first is the risk of physical and mental health problems. Whether it’s psychosis, anxiety, depression or other items which have been chronicled by the medical authorities, the medical risks are real and significant and important.
“Secondly, of course, marijuana’s a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented. We’ve seen the victims of crime represented this morning with their comments. We’ve seen the AMA and so many other bodies express their concerns.
“As the Government of Australia, our job is to protect the health of Australians. This action by the Greens risks the health of Australians. It should be rejected and they should withdraw it and we will oppose it.”
He said that using cannabis in a medicinal capacity, on a “very selective basis” was the way to manage such a drug.
“Open slather is about deep, profound health risks,” he said.