Sorry, that’s a nope on recreational cannabis in Australia for now
Canada’s recreational cannabis market opens tonight Australian time — but we are unlikely to do anything similar for a long time.
Despite a burgeoning Australian cannabis industry — there are now more than 30 ASX-listed cannabis stocks — only the Greens and the Liberal Democrats want to see cannabis freely traded in Australia. Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals are all opposed.
Monday saw the second reading of Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhyelm’s cannabis bill — a piece of legislation that would toss out all federal restrictions on cannabis in Australia.
The idea is it’d then be up to the States to decide how they want to deal with the drug.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale says they’re going to introduce their own private members bill by the end of the year, and hijacked Mr Leyonhjelm’s bill reading to explain how their Canada-like system would work.
Both argue that the expense of policing cannabis — Mr Leyonhjelm reckons 70 per cent of a $1.5b spent on drug enforcement is around cannabis — the fact that it doesn’t appear to be as harmful as alcohol, or other controlled drugs, and the tax opportunity of around $300m a year makes it a no-brainer.
Of the 30-odd pot stocks on the ASX, Stockhead estimates that some 16 would likely be keen to sell products into a recreational market in Australia.
They range from Bod Australia’s (ASX:BDA) cannabis skincare to Creso’s (ASX:CPH) beer, or even selling raw cannabis — Cann Group (ASX:CAN) is by the far the most advanced listed grower, while THC Global (ASX:THC) is preparing a large site called Jenbrook in NSW.
While they can export value-added medical cannabis products, they aren’t allowed to sell those as recreational products overseas.
Only four Aussie pot stocks have any exposure to the Canadian recreational market.
But they’re up against the rest of Australian politics.
Cann Group boss Peter Crock has said several times that recreational cannabis isn’t likely in Australia for another five or ten years.
On Monday, the Liberals said they don’t like it on the grounds that it would dismantle the carefully constructed, and highly complex, medical cannabis regulations and put cannabis control in the hands of the States.
Liberal Senator Jane Hume asked everyone to think of the children, citing the harm to teenage and unborn babies’ brains, and a Royal Australian College of GPs submission that recreational use risked mental health problems and addiction.
“Illicit drug use is no less victimless than is alcoholism,” she said, backing the Australian Medical Association view that although debate on the subject is timely, it’s not the right time yet for recreational cannabis in Australia.
“More nuanced deliberations must occur in relation to the benefits of ending criminal penalties associated with personal cannabis use as well as the need to better protect the groups of people who are most vulnerable to the deleterious effects of cannabis,” she said.
Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan believes long term use of cannabis reduces adult IQ by 8 points and is associated with domestic violence.
“But for those, and there are a lot, who become addicted to this particular drug—and make no mistake about it, it is a drug of addiction—you can pick them out of the crowd. You can pick them out of the shopping centre. You can see those who have had very long-term—decades—consumption of cannabis and the impacts it has on them,” Mr O’Sullivan recounted.
And Labor’s Don Farrell, while a little less florid in his facts, was also baldly opposed, saying: “Labor does not support this bill, primarily because Labor does not support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
“While cannabis does not have the same addictive properties as alcohol and tobacco, research has shown that some 10 per cent of regular cannabis users become dependent on the drug and that this rate is higher for those who start using it in their teenage years,” he told the Senate.