Victoria could be on the way to decriminalising recreational cannabis after Premier Jacinta Allan admitted to using the drug in the past and Treasurer Tim Pallas said he didn’t believe in a “criminal approach”.
The Legalise Cannabis Party this week launched a campaign to make recreational cannabis use legal in three states and overhaul legislation that unfairly criminalises people – particularly First Nations people who are disproportionately charged with possession. In New South Wales between 2020 and 2022 they made up almost half of all cannabis-related interactions with police, despite making up just three per cent of the population.
The drug law reform bill has been months of effort from the Legalise Cannabis, along with support from the Greens and the Animal Justice Party, who introduced it into the Victorian, NSW and Western Australian Parliaments on Tuesday. If passed, the new laws would allow residents to grow up to six plants at home and possess small amounts of cannabis without consequence. The “Regulation of Personal Adult Use of Cannabis Bill 2023”, would also allow adults to gift the drug to other adults, although selling and trafficking would remain illegal.
Victoria’s Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt said on Wednesday the government was “amenable to ongoing discussions” with Legalise Cannabis, experts and the community about reforming the state’s drug laws.
Treasurer Tim Pallas said on Thursday he didn’t want to get too far ahead of himself but that this was an important discussion to be had in parliament.
“What I would say is that it is important to deal with the crossbench in the other house with some respect. They’ve sought dialogue around these matters and they’ll get it,” he said.
“I suppose I should declare I have used [it] and I don’t think a criminal approach to this is best. A health approach would be best.”
Premier Jacinta Allan and Opposition Leader John Pesutto also admitted on Thursday to using cannabis in the past.
Allan said her experience was a “long, long, long time ago” but added, “it’s important that we come to these questions with an honest answer and not obfuscate”.
Pesutto, who admitted to smoking weed three times as a young man, said he did not support the legalisation of cannabis but said too many people were in the justice system as a result of criminal possession laws.
“People often say, ‘Oh, it’s a law and order issue, it should be a health issue’. Well, of course it should be a health issue – we don’t want people going to jail or being caught up in the justice system,” Pesutto said.
“But I think we need to be serious and realistic and honest about the health impacts of encouraging the use of cannabis more freely. We don’t know how people are going to react to the use.” (Full Story)