The Green say legalising cannabis could net the government $28bn tax revenue in nine years, but there are a few hurdles
The Australian Greens Party has introduced a bill into parliament to legalise cannabis nationwide. The proposed legislation, currently out for public consultation, aims to regulate and sell approved strains of cannabis for recreational use. The bill includes provisions for establishing a national cannabis licensing scheme, a regulator, and the Cannabis Australia National Agency, which would oversee small-scale commercial growing operations and sales. It would also be legal to grow six plants at home and sell cannabis through licensed cafes and dispensaries. Although the constitution gives the states responsibility for criminal law, the Greens believe that once cannabis is legalised federally, the Commonwealth can regulate the cultivation, licensing, and sale of cannabis, thus creating a national legal market.
The Greens estimate that legalising cannabis could net the government $28bn in tax revenue over nine years. Medical cannabis is already legal in Australia with a prescription, but the industry is heavily regulated by authorities and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Growing, possessing, selling, and using cannabis remains illegal in Australia. Each state and territory has its fines and sentences for possession and use. For example, in New South Wales, possession/use can result in a maximum penalty of up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $2,200. In Victoria, police have the discretion to issue a caution for anyone found with up to 50g of cannabis for personal use. In Queensland, possession can result in a maximum sentence of 15 years, but police can give a caution/diversion notice to someone carrying up to 50g for personal use for a first offence.
The proposed legislation would create a legal market for cannabis, joining the handful of countries and US states that have already legalised it. While medical cannabis is available in Australia, it is heavily regulated by authorities and the TGA, making it difficult for patients to access it. In contrast, the Greens' bill proposes to regulate approved strains of cannabis and who could grow and sell it, giving space for passing federal legislation to create a national legal market for cannabis. The Greens' bill estimates that the federal government could earn $28bn in tax revenue over nine years.
Australians' attitudes to cannabis are changing, with nearly 40% of over 14s in Australia having reported using it in their lifetimes. However, despite the Greens' bill's potential to generate significant revenue, it remains to be seen whether it will receive government support. The Labor Party has yet to indicate whether it would back the legislation. It is still being determined whether the individual laws of possession within the states and who would enforce any Commonwealth laws could be a potential hurdle to the bill. The Greens believe that legalisation is the first hurdle to cross, and further difficulties can be worked out through a forum such as the federal cabinet.
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