The Greens say they have new constitutional advice that proves federal parliament can override state-based criminalisation of cannabis – and say they will rely on growing support among Australians on the issue, “whatever old-style politics might say”.
“We can legalise it!” Greens Senator and the party’s justice spokesperson David Shoebridge announced on Twitter on Monday, referring to “legal advice obtained by my office that shows that the Greens can pass a bill to legalise cannabis nationally”.
The legal advice comes from constitutional law expert Patrick Keyzer, who says the pathway to legalising cannabis is through regulating plant variety rights at a Commonwealth level.
“In short, the Commonwealth can regulate the cultivation, licencing and sale of cannabis and this includes all the ancillary machinery provisions needed to create a legal national market for cannabis,” Mr Shoebridge said in an earlier statement.
“Once this occurs, all state and territory laws contrary to the legal use of cannabis under the Commonwealth laws (being the current State criminal sanctions) would cease to have effect.”
The Greens have lobbied for the legalisation of cannabis for years and are now working with stakeholders to create a draft bill to be presented to parliament.
“We will be consulting extensively on our bill to present a model to parliament with broad support that can actually become law, if not in this parliament then in the next one,” a spokesperson for David Shoebridge told SBS News on Monday.
State progress ‘taking forever’
Mr Shoebridge said while he supported campaigners at the state level and welcomed progress in the Australian Capital Territory, which legalised recreational cannabis in January 2020 for those aged over 18, progress was too slow.
“It is just taking forever,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“We take the campaign on federally and what’s exciting is we now have constitutional legal advice that says the Commonwealth Parliament can just move and legalise cannabis.”
The Greens say they have new constitutional advice that proves federal parliament can override state-based criminalisation of cannabis. Source: AAP
The Greens claim the war on cannabis is not working to reduce drug use in Australia and its criminalisation leads to the unnecessary policing of young and vulnerable people, supports organised crime, and leads to the use of more harmful drugs such as methamphetamines.
Legalising it “brings that money back into the legitimate economy,” Mr Shoebridge told reporters.
“You can tax it and that money, instead of going into bikie gangs, it can go to hospitals and schools.”
Lack of support from Labor and the Liberals
Australia’s two major parties are unlikely to support a Greens bill on the issue.
“The Australian Government does not propose to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis”, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told SBS News on Monday.
The Liberal party didn’t provide comment, but in November 2021, then Health Minister Greg Hunt, in response to a petition to legalise cannabis, wrote: “The Government does not support any measure that could imply that illicit drugs are safe or may increase their availability or consumption. As such it does not support the legislation, decriminalisation and/or use of any quantity of illicit drugs”.
But Mr Shoebridge remains undeterred, saying he is relying on community support for the issue to gain momentum.
“We know we have a growing support base across the community on this, whatever old-style politics might say,” his spokesperson said.
“It’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Our job here is to make the ‘when’ happen.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Shoebridge added the Greens wanted to take the decision “to the people”.
“We want to take a final bill to a committee and hear what the rest of Australia has to say.”
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW),
For people aged 14 and over in Australia in 2019, 36 per cent had used cannabis in their lifetime, the AIHW said.