Decriminalise Cannabis in Victoria

Shaun Marcus from Arnold Dallas McPherson Injury Lawyers on Decriminalising Cannabis in Victoria
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This article was originally published at Australian Lawyer Alliance.

Victoria’s drug laws must be brought into line with community expectations and the increasing evidence that shows a heath-based response to drug use is the best approach, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“It is time for the Government to listen to the community on this issue,” said Shaun Marcus, Director, ALA. “Community attitudes in Victoria towards personal drug use are changing. Our laws must be updated to reflect these changing community expectations, and the increasing evidence that shows a health-based response is the right approach to personal drug use.”

The ALA has been calling for drug law reform for many years now, and is part of a group of organisations and individuals asking the Victorian Government to commit to decriminalising cannabis use. Read the group’s open letter to Premier Dan Andrews here.

The National Drug Household Survey in 2019 showed that 36% of Australians over 14 have used cannabis at some stage in their life and in Victoria 600,000 people use cannabis each year.

“We know that Victoria’s current emphasis on law enforcement and punishment has not reduced cannabis use,” said Mr Marcus.  “Laws are only worthwhile and effective if they are respected by the community. If a law is regularly flouted, this is a telling sign that it has lost its authority and should be repealed. This is the case with current cannabis laws.

“The research also shows that more and more people believe that using cannabis should not make you a criminal.

“Every year millions of dollars are spent on the pointless prosecution of drug users, clogging our court systems and resulting in people – especially young people – ending up with criminal records that last a lifetime. 

“Taxpayer funds are wasted prosecuting people who use cannabis, and police time is wasted charging them.  We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, young people and homeless people are disproportionately affected by the current drug laws.

“The research done in the ACT since cannabis use was decriminalised has shown that decriminalising cannabis does not increase use but instead allows an increased focus on health and social support for users.

“There is now evidence from a range of countries to show that the decriminalisation of cannabis works. This evidence should give confidence that, in Victoria, we can safely reform our approach and decriminalise cannabis use and possession.”

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