The Australian Greens tabled a bill to legalize cannabis on Friday, August 10, the Greens Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023.
The bill, introduced by Greens Senator David Shoebridge, seeks to establish a national framework for legalizing and regulating cannabis across Australia.
The Party also recently released a report based on feedback received on the proposed legislation. The report included commitments to address much of that feedback, such as ensuring it will be legal to make edibles at home, stricter labelling requirements, and medical cannabis laws are preserved.
The bill itself proposes to create an age of access of 18, up to six cannabis plants per home, with retail sales in “cannabis cafes” that can also facilitate outdoor consumption spaces. It includes provisions for production and retail licences, and proposes that any applicable fees for such licences will not apply to Indigenous Australians.
It also seeks to establish a national agency, the Cannabis Australia National Agency, to regulate production and retail licences, import, export, and more. The agency would also maintain a “Register of Cannabis Strains”.
It also includes stiff proposed penalties for violations of the rules, with imprisonment of up to two years and up to 2000 “penalty units”. The value of these units varies by location, with one unit equaling around AUD$1-200.
The bill’s future is still being determined as the majority Labor Party in Australia has not signalled support for legalization. But Shoebridge believes now is as good a time as any to move the conversation forward.
In a speech to parliament, the Senator explained the bill is a common sense approach to addressing legal injustices from cannabis prohibition, as well as an opportunity for revenue generation and new job creation in the legal industry.
“It is the chance for tens of thousands of quality green jobs, new small businesses, enriched regional economies and the boon for tourism that will come with establishing a totally new legal industry. It is the opportunity to regulate the quality, strength and safety of a product that millions of Australians are already using, and it’s the chance to radically reduce harm, literally overnight, by saving some 80,000 Australians a year from being caught up in the criminal justice system for possession of cannabis.”
He also notes that a federal approach to legalization, rather than a state-by-state approach, will bring the country into an emerging global legal industry. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2019, and legislation has been introduced in South Australia.
“We also see the obvious benefits in a single national legal market,” added Shoebridge. “This not only allows for a national justice win, it also means we will have a single well-regulated and coherent national market. While the moves by such a large number of US states to legalise cannabis have been extremely positive, the lack of a national market there has produced some unhelpful friction points at borders and ongoing tensions between State and Federal laws.”
In an interview with StratCann earlier this year, Senator Shoebridge says the legislation was written taking into account the experiences of other jurisdictions, including Canada.
“The Bill takes lessons from the Canadian model, with Cannabis able to be purchased by adults from licensed dealers and cannabis cafes [retail spaces]. We also have tried to learn lessons from Canada’s experience of legalization, and our draft legislation looks to have a market that is more democratic, more decentralized and less corporate.”
The Act also calls for a five-year review, if passed.
The bill received first and second reading in Australian Parliament on Friday, August 10, 2023. If it moves beyond second reading, it will go to Consideration in detail and then third reading and, if it has support, would then be passed.
The Australian Greens have four seats in the House of Representatives and eleven Senators. The Australian Parliament has 151 MPs in the House of Representatives and 76 Senators. The centre-left Labor Party holds the majority of power with 78 seats in the House of Representatives.