Will Australia legalise recreational cannabis? It’s a burning question for many investors, but for now the answer isn’t clear.
So far there are no clear indicators as to when or if Australia could legalise recreational cannabis, but attitudes seem to be changing. Public support is growing, and there’s even some political acceptance.
Read on to learn more about when Australia may legalise recreational cannabis.
Public support for legalisation growing
Australians are no strangers to cannabis — a recently updated report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that marijuana is the most extensively used illicit substance in the country.
With that in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that views on cannabis are changing in the country. In 2019, Australia’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 41 percent of Australians are in favour of legalising cannabis — that’s close to double the support seen when the survey was done in 2007.
Aside from that, legalisation has been recommended by a number of government inquiries, including a 2019 Queensland Productivity Commission report on imprisonment and recidivism.
Several states have decriminalised personal use of cannabis on private property, including the ACT, the Northern Territory (NT) and South Australia. Most other states have a discretionary almost de facto decriminalisation in place through police diversion programs.
Those arrested for small amounts of under 50 grams of cannabis can be diverted to drug counselling or education, or issued a fine rather than a criminal conviction.
Economic opportunities lie in legalisation
Although Australia’s economy ended 2020 on a high note after facing COVID-19-related setbacks, some experts believe cannabis legalisation could assist even further with economic growth.
The climate of the NT and its accessibility to Asia makes the likelihood of legalised marijuana a possible gold mine for the NT, according to economist Rolf Gerritsen.
“The Government, if it licensed the system and appointed official sales points, could actually set up a nice little industry with the possibility of future exports,” Gerritsen told ABC News.
In 2020, Australia’s economy plunged into its first recession in three decades due to fallout from the coronavirus, which came mere months after devastating bushfires that ravaged over 12 million hectares.
During the fall, a Twitter campaign from the Australian Greens political party pushed for legalisation to help pull the nation out of its recession, declaring cannabis a “multi-billion dollar industry.”
Federal cannabis legalisation unlikely
Although exciting, it seems unlikely that the Australian government will legalise marijuana at this stage.
Outside the Twitter campaign mentioned above, legalisation of cannabis has been a big part of the platform for the Greens, which are seeking the establishment of a controlled market for the sale of cannabis and would allow members of the public to grow up to six plants.
But the Greens are currently the only political party pushing for legalisation of recreational cannabis.
Both the Liberal National Party and Australian Labor Party have only shown support for medicinal cannabis at a federal level. In fact, Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter has been vocally opposed to the legalisation in Canberra, declaring the laws “terrible” and saying state- and territory-level laws conflict with federal laws on possession.
Many were looking towards the outcome of a New Zealand referendum on legalisation that failed as 50.7 percent voted “no” to the 48.4 percent “yes” votes.
What could legalisation do to the market?
A report from cannabis researcher Prohibition Partners hypothesizes great potential for Australia to significantly increase value through cannabis exports, while a focus on buying local could see more domestic cannabis revenue than ever before.
Success could encourage more regions to look closely at their own reform measures, particularly after watching the ACT’s adoption of restricted cannabis legalisation, the study argues.
“Both Victoria and Tasmania are also making moves towards more lenient cannabis laws and could be following in the ACT’s footsteps,” said the report’s authors.
“The Victorian government invested in R&D of the local industry, and is said to have ambitions to be the ‘cannabis bowl of Australia’ with a target of 500 local jobs.”
The report predicts the Australian cannabis market will break a total market value of US$1.5 billion by the year 2025, which would make it the largest legal cannabis market in Oceania. Eagle-eyed investors will be watching the market closely.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.