“A pretend law, made in excess of power, is not and never has been a law at all. Anyone in the country is entitled to disregard it”, Chief Justice Sir John Latham, 1942, South Australia v Commonwealth.
At the end of 2017, a compassionate Cannabis healer from a southern Australian state asked on social media, “So when are the lawyers going to stand up against the lies based on laws which are the Cannabis laws? Cannabis is NOT a poison, NOT a narcotic, NOT a drug of dependence!” Earlier that year, Australia21 released a report from a round-table discussion involving 17 experts and practitioners. Retired judges, prosecutors, senior police, prison and parole administrators, drug law researchers and advocates met at the University of Sydney to discuss drug law reform. The round-table explored the range of alternative options to prohibition, including initiatives introduced in other countries. They addressed the question of exploring different approaches in their report, ‘Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?’ and agreed, “What we now have is badly broken, ineffective and even counter-productive to the harm minimisation aims of Australia’s national illicit drugs policy. We must be courageous enough to consider a new and different approach”.
Already in 2018 there are a handful of court cases in which ‘medical necessity’ will be used alongside not guilty pleas for a variety of Cannabis charges. Members of both the Australian Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party and the Medical Cannabis Users Association (MCUA) of Australia joined forces to survey their members, seeking detail on interactions with the vastly inequitable, illogical and inhumane ‘Cannabis laws’, charges and sentencing for all so-called ‘Cannabis crimes’, but especially for use of the plant for documented medical purposes and compassionate supply, entirely victimless crimes. One of the HEMP Party’s main policies is to end prohibition, release those imprisoned along with removal of all records of criminal Cannabis convictions. From the survey answers it is unambiguous that either the luck-of-the draw or political pressure is at play in sentencing in most states. Demarcation in sentencing along state lines is also reflected in the results, according to whichever political party is in charge in a given state at a given time.
“Australia’s drug driving laws criminalise individuals who represent no risk to other drivers, making a mockery of the law as a tool for reasonably managing risk in a community”, Greg Barns Barrister and a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
In most states and territories the court will have no choice but to disqualify or cancel a first time offender’s drivers licence for a period of three to nine months. In the United States with the advent of Cannabis use for medicinal purposes an acknowledgement came from one superior court that it is patently unjust to penalise a person who does not threaten other road users in any way. The inherent unfairness of drug driving laws can be illustrated by comparing them to drink driving laws. The link between alcohol, road deaths and injuries is well known, as Assistant Professor Andrea Roth wrote in the California Law Review. We base drink driving laws on demonstrably correct data. Not so with other substances such as Cannabis (deemed a ‘drug’, but actually a herb). Australia takes the prohibitionist stance and applies it to driving without bothering to undertake rigorous analysis.
“Australia’s drug driving laws have no evidential basis but can have severe impacts on the rights of individuals and their families. A zero tolerance approach to drugs while driving avoid[s] the need for a reliable science-based correlation between drug concentration and level of impairment”, Franjo Grotenhermen and colleagues, Addiction
As Professor Roth observes, it is a case of legislators being lazy and simply saying “a prohibitionist stance would have to do”. Dr Alex Wodak, Chair of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation noted, “One of the problems with ‘zero tolerance’ drug driving laws is that they punish some drivers who are not impaired as a way of deterring other drivers who might be impaired or might become impaired from driving. This is what we call ‘vicarious punishment’ and it offends basic notions of fairness”. Or, as Professor Roth put it, “punishment without purpose is immoral”. Australia’s drug driving laws have no evidential basis but can have severe impacts on the rights of individuals and their families, given loss of a driver’s licence can mean losing your job. Even more liberal laws, like those across the US are not legitimate because, to quote Professor Roth, “there is no demonstrated linear or predictable relationship between THC blood limits and an increased crash risk”.
In Arizona, US, the Supreme Court weighed into the issue with a landmark ruling that identified the flaw in zero tolerance drug driving laws. It noted a driver cannot be considered to be ‘under the influence’ based solely on concentrations of Cannabis or its metabolites that are insufficient to cause impairment. In other words, it is only legitimate as a matter of justice and sound public policy to prosecute individuals about whom it can be shown that the concentration of the ‘drug’ in their blood stream meant they presented a risk to other road users. Australian courts are on a daily basis, dealing with drug driving cases and criminalising individuals who represent no risk to other road users. This is making a mockery of the law as a tool for ensuring that risk in a community is managed reasonably. Drug driving laws must be reformed and this can only be done by pursuing rigorous analysis of the impact of drugs on driving. The only offence which ought to be on the statute books is one based, as is the case in respect of drink driving laws, where there is a strong research consensus on causation between the substance in a person’s blood stream and impairment.
Australia’s legislation regarding the use and cultivation of Cannabis is groundless, immoral and unethical, as Cannabis scheduling is based on false statements taken from the advice of some of the highest-paid (partially pharmaceutical funded), prohibitionists Australia has ever seen. For example, Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has spent years spewing ‘reefer madness’, prohibitionist driven lies and purport there is a large body of research and evidence on the “harms associated with Cannabis use”. However, their assertions are easily exposed as false with science-fact, not the fictions they consistently publish, noting that the purported Cannabis Use Disorder they are so fond of ‘studying’ was debunked in 2013, when the DSM-V was officially defunded due to the weakness of the manual, “its lack of validity”. Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the US National Institute of Mental Health at the time, stated, “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure”. That consensus was deemed to be missing, whether it ever really existed also remains in doubt, as one consultant for DSM-III conceded about the horse-trading that drove the supposedly ‘evidenced-based’ edition from 1980, “There was very little systematic research and much of the research that existed was really a hodgepodge—scattered, inconsistent, ambiguous”.
A code of ethics commonly expresses the expectation of service to the community with values such as honesty, integrity, impartiality, respect for persons, respect for the law, diligence, economy and efficiency, responsiveness and accountability, evident in Australian professional ethical codes and guidelines. This ideal is espoused by Australian lawyers and in the ‘Ethics for In-House Counsel’ handbook the first ethical foundation is that the defining characteristic of each and every profession is a commitment to place the interests of others before those of its members, individually and collectively and to act in a spirit of public service. Another is that practising law requires the exercise of moral courage. The community is entitled to receive legal information and be provided with legal advice and representation to resolve disputes and establish or affirm individual rights and obligations.
Regrettably, as former Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Gerard Brennan observed: “Litigation is financially beyond the reach of practically everybody but the affluent, the corporate or the legally aided litigant; governments are anxious to restrict expenditure on legal aid and the administration of justice. It is not an overstatement to say the system of administering justice is in crisis. Ordinary people cannot afford to enforce their rights or litigate to protect their immunities … some solutions must be found and practical solutions are likely to be radical”. In the words of Kirby J (1995 Aust Torts Reports 81-367,62,795), “The great debate for lawyers in [this] century … is whether the ascendancy of economics and competition, unrestrained, will snuff out what is left of the nobility of the legal calling and the idealism of those who are attracted to its service. We must certainly all hope that the basic ideal of the legal profession, as one of the faithful service beyond pure economic self-interest will survive. But whether it survives or not is up to us, the lawyers of today”.
There are tens-of-thousands of illicit Cannabis users across Australia who would like to know, as advisers to governments, when law societies and judicial commissions across the nation intend to look at the outlandish lies and inconsistencies in the Cannabis laws and speak to the Attorneys General about the impact the ideological, entirely failed and now admittedly lost “War on Drugs” is having on already sick and suffering citizens (patients, carers, parents and advocates) and why, when an ever-growing number of other jurisdictions worldwide allow use of Cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, Australians are still persecuted and prosecuted for what is, in some cases, their only choice between life and death? Australian drug laws have been established by decree, based on media-generated bigotry and beliefs, not carefully analysed evidence nor scientific facts. Severe punishment for possession and use of outlawed ‘drugs’, many safer than alcohol or tobacco, is cruel and unjust. Governments and regulatory bodies conceal truths and maintain misconceptions to justify hypocritical punishments meted out by the courts.
“Organised crime in this state and the rest of the country is out of control and cannot be stopped without a radical change”, New South Wales Crime Commission.
In the eyes of legislators it would seem any ‘drugs’, except alcohol and tobacco, that give a degree of pleasure must be prohibited and defined as ‘a dangerous drug of addiction’, whether or not the substance in question actually causes pharmacological harm! The Howard government (1996-2007) went from ‘harm minimisation’ to ‘zero tolerance’ with a “tough on drugs” policy. We wonder when Australian law-makers will cast aside their irrational fear of what might happen, given there is no evidence to justify their supposed anxiety. In fact, evidence from Portugal, Uruguay and US states of Colorado, Oregon and Washington, for example, show the complete opposite. Do our law-makers still think Cannabis used for medicinal purposes will warp minds; this is nothing more than prohibitionist, reefer-madness, fear-mongering led by those with a vested interest in keeping the pharmaceutical model of healthcare that has paid their salaries for decades whilst lying to the public about the toxic side-effects of their products and stigmatising Cannabis when it is in fact an entirely non-toxic herb, not a drug of addiction at all, and safer even than water (water can kill, Cannabis cannot).
As of 1 January, 2018, Cannabis will be recreationally legal in a number of states across the US including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington DC. This will bring America in line with Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, parts of India, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and Uruguay, all of which have made recreational Cannabis use legal or decriminalised.
In the US, the effect of state Cannabis legalisation on Colorado, for example, has been all good since voters legalised in November 2012 for recreational use. During the first year of implementation, Denver experienced a 2.2% decrease in violent crimes and an 8.9% reduction in property crimes, according to research conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance. Many other reports have corroborated that data, including the Colorado Department of Public Safety and the FBI Uniform Crime Report. The Colorado Department of Public Safety report showed a 6% decrease in the violent crime rate state-wide from 2009 to 2014. Other US jurisdictions that legalised Cannabis for recreational use have experienced similar declines in violent crime. In Washington State, violent crime rates decreased by 10%, from 2011-2014 and Portland, Oregon, also saw crime rates drop since legalising Cannabis for recreational use.
Another comprehensive study published by Dr Robert Morris, Criminology professor at University of Texas, Dallas, demonstrated legalised Cannabis actually reduced homicide and assault rates. Dr Morris’ study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalised Cannabis for medical use. “We found no increase in crime rates resulting from medical marijuana legalisation”, Morris said. “In fact, we found some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault”. Implementing and enforcing Australia’s drug laws is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Australian governments spent $1.7 billion, 2009/10, on illicit ‘drugs’; 64% law enforcement, 22% treatment, 10% prevention, only 2% harm reduction. The Australian Crime Commission’s 2011-12 Illicit Drug Data Report stated 61,011 (65%) of drug arrests were Cannabis-related. That’s police and judicial time that could be better spent dealing with actual and serious crimes such as murders, domestic violence, robberies, rapes and white-collar crimes (on the rise across many jurisdictions in Australia).
New South Wales Greens Dr Mehreen Faruqi, party spokesperson on drugs and harm minimisation, stated in 2017 that while change is never easy when it comes to drug law reform, the two major political parties have persisted with “failed policies of prohibition” over the last twenty years. “It seems their minds are closed to the evidence, the opinion polling and the significant social, health and economic benefits a system of legalising and regulating Cannabis could bring”, Dr Faruqi said. Dr Faruqi envisages such a market could be modelled on Oregon or Washington, US’ models, “where there are systems of licensed sellers and restrictions on advertising and marketing”. An independent regulatory authority could oversee development of the market. “I would like to see a serious parliamentary inquiry into legalising Cannabis that can bring the best and most successful elements from around the world to Australia” she said. On the subject of home-grown, Dr Faruqi is adamant people should be allowed to grow prescribed amounts. “We have seen the power of ‘big tobacco’ and ‘big alcohol’ so we need to ensure we don’t create a monopolised ‘big Cannabis’ either”, Dr Faruqi concluded.
Classified federally as a Schedule I substance in the US, defined as a “most dangerous” drug, “with no currently accepted medical use”. Neither of those statements has ever been factual, said internationally respected US Neurosurgeon and Medical Correspondent for CNN, Dr Sanjay Gupta, whom also said, “We have been terribly and systematically misled [regarding the medical benefits of Cannabis] for over 70 years and I, for one, am sorry for the part I have played in that”.
We understand sentencing is a state related matter but as we all live in the same country and the purported ‘crimes’ are the same, why, for example, is one state seemingly lenient and another incredibly harsh? Roadside Drug Testing (RDT) is a perfect example of legislation designed to suit a political agenda and not a road safety one. Testing for the presence of a substance in one’s system to purportedly make the roads safer is a complete waste of police time when they don’t test for substances that actually kill on the roads, like benzodiazepines (just behind alcohol and ahead of cocaine in drugs causative of fatal road accidents). A 2017 paper by Wollongong University Associate Professor of Law Julia Quilter and University of New South Wales Professor of Law Luke McNamara took a look at how Australian drug driving laws have developed over time and their inconsistency with “the evidence-based impairment paradigm”.
In Zero Tolerance’ Drug Driving Laws in Australia: A Gap Between Rationale and Form, the researchers aimed to call out “unprincipled law making and encourage governments to be attentive to the normative deficits … of how criminal law is employed as a public policy tool”. Random Breath Testing (RBT) transformed the common practice of drink driving into a “highly stigmatised criminal behaviour” and improved road safety. However, because of the flawed premise Australia’s current drug driving laws are based upon, they don’t have the potential to do the same. Drug driving laws across the nation make it an offence to drive a vehicle with the mere presence of certain illicit substances in a person’s system. In most jurisdictions, police only test for Cannabis, amphetamines and MDMA. Victoria was the first state to introduce this model in 2004, after amending the Road Safety Act 1986. Section 49(1)(bb) provides a person is guilty of an offence if driving “while the prescribed concentration of drugs or more … is present in his or her blood or oral fluid”. Section 3 defines “prescribed concentration of drugs” as “any concentration”.
This model doesn’t align with the equation that testing for impairment improves road safety. Mobile drug testing doesn’t test if there are “active” drugs in a person’s system. It only tests for presence. As Lismore local court magistrate, David Heilpern accepted, drivers can test positive for ‘drugs’ they have taken days prior. A positive test result is no indication a driver is impaired and unfit to drive. Thus the whole rationale of road safety is lost when drivers using other licit (particularly pharmaceuticals) or illicit drugs that impair are allowed to use motor vehicles while impaired. Then there’s the over-criminalisation of those who do use ‘drugs’ being tested for. These individuals are punished as dangerous drivers, when there is no evidence they have actually been driving in an impaired state. These drivers are subjected to hefty fines and licence disqualification. In some jurisdictions there’s even a prison penalty option. Researchers recommend all Australian jurisdictions make three changes to existing drug driving laws:
- All drugs known to impair driving should be tested for, whether licit or illicit.
- Oral fluid testing should only be used as an initial test. Following test should be a blood sample, sent off for laboratory analysis; the basis to any criminal charges. Oral fluid tests are “a relatively poor mechanism for assessing” impairment. In the 2013 Wolff report the “gold standard” for drug detection is a blood sample; and,
- Minimum prescribed concentrations for all impairing drugs should be set (in 2012, Norway introduced evidence-based concentrations for 20 non-alcohol drugs, legal and illegal).
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealed the Australian community’s support for a new approach to drug use and addiction. Penington Institute’s acting CEO David Grant said the findings further highlight Australia’s existing approach to addiction, overdose and problematic ‘drug’ use simply isn’t working. “The failed War on Drugs continues to cost lives and money – it provides very poor return on investment for the Australian community and there is a growing awareness of this fact. Throughout the entire Australian community more and more people are dying from drug use – this is an avoidable tragedy. In addition to this, untold amounts of taxpayer dollars are squandered on an approach that continues to fail to the detriment of our entire community”. Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2017 (from the Penington Institute) shows more than twice as many Australians are now dying due to accidental overdose compared to those dying from car accidents.
A significant increase in deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids, street heroin and highly potent fentanyl is also highlighted. “We need to treat drug use and addiction for what it is – a serious community health issue with widespread implications for our society. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem – we need better community education for people who are experimenting with drug use before they become addicted and greater availability to a range of health and support services. We need to shift our approach to evidence-based measures with proven results – this isn’t about going soft on drugs it’s about getting smart on drugs”. Mr Grant says a review of expenditure and the allocation of resources in relation to drugs is one option to work towards a more targeted and effective response to drug use in the Australian community.
Past President and current Treasurer of the MCUA, Gail Hester, summed up the situation across Australia noting that the MCUA, a not-for-profit incorporated association, with 16,000 Aussie members in their Facebook group, all want access to affordable Cannabis, including growing their own plants for medicine and food to treat and prevent illness. Although access was purportedly made legal last year, less than 200 people nationwide have been granted access via prescription as doctors are not prepared to risk their licence by prescribing it and apparently indemnity insurers are playing a role as well. This leaves thousands of otherwise law-abiding Australians with no choice but to seek out Cannabis on the black market or grow their own and it is becoming more common that patients and providers are raided, busted and dragged through the courts by police who confiscate medicine and destroy plants.
Patients and carers need protection in place to stop this happening. Courts are becoming seriously clogged with those whom use Cannabis for medicinal purposes and families are having children taken and put into “care” due to employing illicit Cannabis with amazing results for, particularly, paediatric epilepsy and autism. This too has to stop. Many hundreds of seniors who used Cannabis as a social choice have now found themselves turning to the plant to reduce symptoms of illness and ageing such as chronic pain, migraine, glaucoma, adult epilepsy and a myriad of other conditions including mental health issues including depression, anxiety and the likes of PTSD. This is because Cannabis works on the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to create and ensure balance (homoeostasis) across all the other major bodily systems and keeps disease at bay.
We know Cannabis is safe for the greater majority of people as no one has ever died from overdose (not physiologically possible), unlike the current epidemic of opioid deaths. The gateway theory has been debunked over and over and states in the US where Cannabis is fully legal have seen a drop in road related deaths, mainly because people are using less alcohol. Police continue to raid and destroy crops and take the safer option off the street here in Australia and a multitude of citizens have been seriously let down. Lucy Haslam of United in Compassion, spoke of the deep shame she felt in politicians who had imposed a system designed primarily for pharmaceutical companies; bureaucratic, convoluted, time-consuming, over-regulated and expensive. The overwhelming majority of medical Cannabis users are still forced to the black market.
“I think that New South Wales voters should realise they have been duped at both the state level and the federal level. Politicians have been very quick to stand in front of the camera and to take the accolades for making medical Cannabis available when in fact they’ve done the opposite”, Lucy Haslam, United in Compassion.
In practice, the laws allowing access to medicinal Cannabis are so strict that not more than thirty or forty patients are able to access legal Cannabis in New South Wales. Lucy Haslam estimates the black market contains tens of thousands of medical Cannabis users. While access to medical Cannabis is administered in this highly restricted, bureaucratic manner, many of the activists who campaigned for legalisation continue to be arrested by the police and their supplies and their plants confiscated. A good example of misleading information is the New South Wales Centre for Road Safety website which states THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) can typically be detected in saliva by a Mobile Drug Testing (MDT) stick for up to 12 hours after use (studies suggest THC is detectable for up to 22-24 hours). Stiff penalties apply for those caught; court, loss of licence, fine, a criminal record, driver education.
Criminal Barrister Stephen Lawrence said he heard hundreds of cases where drivers tested positive to Cannabis despite saying they smoked “well outside the 12-hour period. When you, as a magistrate or a criminal lawyer see a constant run of cases where people are saying exactly the same thing and you judge it not to be said in a self-serving way – you form a view. A lot of practitioners have certainly now formed the view the 12-hour figure is misleading”. Lawrence said it has been a “constant issue” since government announced a crackdown on drug driving in 2015, warning mobile drug testing would triple to almost 100,000 tests each year by 2017. He said the government needs to look at its advice urgently. In a scathing judgement, Lismore magistrate David Heilpern said he’d heard hundreds of similar cases in the space of just a few months in which drivers said they waited days, sometimes weeks, after smoking Cannabis before driving, but still tested positive.
He said prosecution remained silent through hundreds of cases, even when defendants claimed they tested positive after passive smoking, eating hemp seeds, rubbing hemp balm or taking medicinal tincture. “In the vast majority of cases the time-frame has been over 12 hours” Mr Heilpern said. “On not one occasion has the prosecution cavilled with this contention. The prosecution have remained silent when people claim they consumed Cannabis weeks prior. Not once has any scientific evidence been produced … that supports the contention the final or any other test only works for 12 hours. It could be every single one of those defendants are lying to the police. However, on balance, I find that this is unlikely”. Stephen Lawrence agreed, “As a criminal lawyer, you get a sense, over a long period of time, as to whether people are being self-serving and dishonest or whether they are being honest and frank. It is a defence to a criminal charge if a person has an honest and reasonable mistaken belief in a state of affairs which, if it exists, means they are not guilty” he said.
“So for example, if you had an honest and reasonable belief based on things that you read on a government website about how long active THC stays in your system, you had structured your behaviour around that advice and then you tested positive for a roadside test – then you should be seeking legal advice about whether you might have a defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact”, Criminal Barrister Stephen Lawrence.
In 2017, the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties’ President Mr Michael Cope stated, “The personal use and possession of all drugs (psychoactive substances) and psychotropic plants should be decriminalised. A policy along those lines was implemented in Portugal in 2001. It has been a great success with none of the predicted dire consequences transpiring”. A study found that in Portugal since decriminalisation;
- Levels of drugs use are less than the European average,
- Drug use has declined amongst 15-24 year olds,
- Deaths due to drug use have declined significantly
The same study reports the enforcement of criminal laws has, at best, a marginal impact in deterring people from drug use. “The centre of the Portuguese approach is harm minimisation by treating drug use as a health problem and not a criminal law problem”. Casey Isaacs, Criminal Defence Lawyer and partner at Caldicott Lawyers says, “It would take a total rethink of a lot of the criminal laws that exist. Once you make it legal, it affects drug driving laws, it will affect a lot of the provisions of the Sentencing Act”. Rachel Shaw, Criminal Defence Lawyer and a partner with Shaw and Henderson said, “At the moment, the legislation is all about what you can’t do, but my suggestion is that you create a law about what is permissible, what you can do”. The nightmare scenario would be pressing delete without doing anything else. Overnight no one from judges down to the cops would know what to do about all the boring, technical stuff.
Both Casey and Rachel suggested the best way to deal with this is to let medical Cannabis for medicinal purposes do the heavy lifting as it raises all the same issues as decriminalising Cannabis for recreational use and places like South Australia and Victoria have already reformed their Cannabis for medicinal use laws and these could be expanded to include recreational. Home cultivation would help combat the black market, according to a policy paper drafted by the British Columbia wing of Canada’s Liberal Party back in 2013. Growing Cannabis at home, the policy makers wrote, would give consumers a legal alternative to retail Cannabis, which means there wouldn’t be any need to keep dealers on the street in business and competing with home cultivation would force businesses to keep the cost of retail Cannabis low and the quality high in order to attract customers.
Colorado, after only a couple of years of legalisation had their lowest teen Cannabis use rate ever recorded, significant drops in violent crime figures, as well as lower driving fatality statistics. Additionally, opioid overdose deaths are lower in every state with legal access to Cannabis. Internationally respected scientific and medical figures, from the United Kingdom, Neuropharmacologist David Nutt, and from the US, Psychologist Dr Mitch Earleywine, Neurobiologist Dr Carl Hart and Psychiatrist Dr Lester Grinspoon among others, agree on the issue of facts and actual science relating to Cannabis and its medical properties.
So why has literally nothing changed in Australia? There are many factors. Firstly, major lobbying from pharmaceutical companies (which donate to major politic parties). Sales figures for opiate painkillers in legal Cannabis states in US tell of massive declines in sales as people switch to a non-lethal, herbal alternative, which many are able to grow themselves at home. In the US, the top five lobby groups opposing legislative change are police unions, private prison corporations, ‘big pharma’ companies, prison guard unions and alcohol producers. There are certainly elements of all these lobby groups active in Australia too, alongside various religious groups. Australians are being force-fed privatisation, with no offer of decriminalisation nor legalisation, driven by unmitigated greed and a complete lack of understanding of even the mechanism-of-action of Cannabis.
Australia could learn from the US ‘experiment’ or take a leaf out of Uruguay’s book, where full legalisation of all previously illicit ‘drugs’ took place in 2013. Drug consumption is not a crime in Uruguay, state law permits the use of any recreational substance and does not criminalise possession for personal use. Cannabis may be obtained by growing it for personal use, buying it from pharmacies or the Ministry of Health, or by being a member of a Cannabis club. Uruguay gained its prominent position on drug-related issues through vigorous campaigns in political and diplomatic arenas for drug control policies that remain cognisant of human rights, emphasise civil society participation, remain impartial and egalitarian according to principles of mutual and shared responsibility and avoid stigmatisation.
Expanded from, Australia’s drug driving laws are grossly unfair and This Can’t Go On, Open Letter from the Front-line of the War on Drugs, Legal Experts Call For Changes to NSW Roadside Drug Testing, How Australia Can Legalise Recreational Weed Within Five Years, Cannabis Re-legalisation Its About Freedom and Good Health, Australian Law Enforcement Have Lost the War on Drugs, with The example of Dr Pot (Nimbin Good Times) by Dr John Jiggens