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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

Time for drug law reform in NSW as state election looms?

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Greens MP and drug law reform spokesperson, Cate Faehrman with Adam Guise outside Lismore Court House. Photo supplied

Drug law reform has been taking the world by storm as Australia has, as usual, dragged its feet.

A ‘harm reduction’, rather than a ‘war on drugs’ approach has been established as the most effective way to deal with drug addiction and its negative consequences, and to reduce the number of people needlessly in jails.

‘Health and safety reform is now inevitable. Australians increasingly want governments to take control of the drug problem through such measures. While our laws and government policies prioritise a criminal response, most Australians don’t,’ Matt Noffs, CEO of the Ted Noffs Foundation, told The Echo back in 2020.

He has been proven right, with Queensland announcing they are giving pill testing the green light and introducing changes to parliament on 21 February that will relax drug laws.

‘Drug laws in Queensland will be relaxed for anyone caught carrying small quantities of illicit substances like heroin, cocaine or ice, with users to be given three chances before facing a criminal charge,’ reported the ABC.

NSW Greens call to legalise cannabis

The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ Report in 2018-19 also recommended a harm minimisation approach. However, the Liberal-National coalition said they would not take up all the recommendations.

Today, as we head into another state election, the Greens are committing to ‘introduce a bill to legalise cannabis as a priority after the election,’ said Greens MP and drug law reform spokesperson, Cate Faehrmann.

‘Prohibition has well and truly failed, and governments all around the world are finally accepting this fact. We’ve seen legalisation in 21 US states, Canada, Uruguay, South Africa and Mexico, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.

‘People are risking criminal records just because their drug of choice has been deemed illegal because of a moral crusade started before I was born. The fact is cannabis poses much less harm to individual users and to our society compared to alcohol, tobacco and many prescription drugs.’

The plan to legalise it would:

• Legalise and regulate cannabis for adults in NSW.

• Reform Mobile Drug Testing to test for impairment instead of presence.

• Generate up to $9 billion in revenue over a decade for NSW.

• Allow households to grow up to 12 cannabis plants.

• Regulate cannabis products to reduce harms with health warnings, CBD/THC content labelling and prohibitions on advertising.

• Establish a NSW Cannabis Authority to regulate the cannabis market with the aim to reduce the harms caused by cannabis and prevent the dominance of the industry by large corporations.

• Allow for cannabis social clubs of at least five people, which can grow 12 plants per member, up to 200 plants.

• Extinguish past cannabis convictions.

$28 billion in revenue

The Greens say that the federal Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated that legalising cannabis with a 25 per cent licensing fee could bring in a whopping $28 billion in revenue over a decade. For NSW that means over $6.5 billion in revenue and $2.4 billion in GST.

‘The war is not on drugs, it’s on our people. I’ve got 80-year-old constituents who are having fantastic results from prescribed cannabis for chronic health conditions who cannot drive or enjoy their mobility because they might lose their licence – despite the fact that they are not impaired,’ said Greens MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith.

Test for impairment

Currently the threshold for a positive drug-driving test for cannabis is that it is detected in your system, whereas an ‘impairment’ (i.e. over the limit) test is used for alcohol.

Adam Guise, who is running for The Greens in the seat of Lismore said that, ‘The Greens have been at the forefront of leading these changes, by introducing laws to overturn nonsensical drug driving laws. Drug law reform can’t happen without political action, and only by electing MPs who want to change the currently broken and unjust system will this occur.’

‘Decades of cannabis prohibition have failed. Continuing to criminalise cannabis users empowers the police to persecute particular populations and communities like Nimbin,’ he said.

The Greens’ bill would ensure that cannabis products are labelled in terms of the strain, and levels of THC and CBD, and include health warnings, says Faehrmann.

‘At the moment most people have no idea of the strength of the cannabis they are buying on the black market and whether or not it’s laced with other drugs.’

‘Instead of billions of dollars going into the pockets of organised crime, our bill would enable the sale of cannabis to be regulated and taxed, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially billions, would be diverted to our health system, including drug rehabilitation and harm reduction.’

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  1. Drugs certainly cause harm to individuals and society, however the prohibition laws greatly exacerbate the harm caused by drugs on all levels. I absolutely support the Green’s stance on drug law reform including legalisation of cannabis.

    Regulation of drugs would ensure that users are aware of the strength of the drug they are using, and strict quality assurance would prevent other toxic substances from being consumed in stark contrast to the blackmarket. Regulation would also ensure that well-considered and fair age, driving and public place restrictions are applied. Revenue raised from taxes could be used to improve services for the relatively small percentage of users who are adversely affected by drugs, and educate people about responsible use of drugs. Drug law reform based on harm minimisation would take power away from those who wish to punish drug users based on moral / predjudice grounds – which is a human rights issue, and similar to laws in the very recent past which criminalised and punished LGBTIQ people.

  2. The Legalise Mariquana party in Victoria has just won two upper house seats, in QLD they received more votes than Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party? We will see how many votes they get in the March NSW election?

  3. Cannabis Social club….I’d like 2 be a fly on the wall there! lol! Legal dope, with the nats. wanting a rural subsidy, no doubt….


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