The push for marijuana legalisation is still in its infancy in Australia. Picture: AP Photo/Richard Vogel
The push for marijuana legalisation is still in its infancy in Australia. Picture: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Kiwis expose our ‘failed experiment’

NEW Zealand's referendum on legalising recreational marijuana has exposed Australia's "failed experiment" on drug laws, claims a senator who wants us to follow suit.

Greens Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters said it's "high time" for Australia to legalise the drug and we'll risk being "getting left behind" in the world if we don't act soon.

"One in three Australians have used it, and the vast majority of Australians think it shouldn't be a crime to do so," she told news.com.au

"Now that Canada, states in the US, and New Zealand are moving down the path of legalisation, Australia risks getting left behind if our politicians continue to support the failed experiment of prohibition.

"Drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one. We know that the 'war on drugs' is a colossal public policy failure which has destroyed thousands of Australian lives. The most dangerous thing about cannabis is its legal status - people face arrest or imprisonment for using it."

It comes as the New Zealand government announced this week that it will hold a referendum on legalising recreational marijuana when Kiwis vote in the next general election in 2020.

The legalisation push across the USA is also showing no signs of slowing down. On Monday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo called for the drug to be made legal for recreational use in his state, including America's most populous city.

And, Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalise the drug in October.

However, in Australia the debate is still infancy, despite a push from the Greens to fully legalise the psychoactive plant.

"The Australian Greens have a proposal to legalise and regulate cannabis," Ms Waters said.

"Our model will smash the business model of criminal gangs overnight - putting $2 billion into the economy every year to go towards our schools, hospitals and essential services."

Greens Senator Larissa Waters says it’s “high time” we legalised weed. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Greens Senator Larissa Waters says it’s “high time” we legalised weed. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

New Zealand's ballot was among the demands the Green Party made during talks to join Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's progressive coalition government after the 2017 election.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the government had agreed to the timetable, and the result of the referendum would be binding.

"It will be held at the 2020 general election," he told reporters, adding "there is a bit of detail still to work through." Ardern's government has already moved to legalise medicinal cannabis, with legislation on the issue working its way through parliament.

An opinion poll last year found 65 per cent of New Zealanders also supported legalising the drug for recreational use.

In October Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace. Picture: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP
In October Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace. Picture: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP

Pro-reform campaign group New Zealand Drug Foundation welcomed the vote, with its chief Ross Bell saying the current approach to regulating marijuana was outdated and it was time for a change.

"Cannabis is New Zealand's most common illegal drug, 50 per cent of the country have tried it," he said.

"We're still trying to address the problem through a law enforcement approach. We're still criminalising people and not providing help to people who have a cannabis dependency."

The conservative National Party opposition leader Simon Bridges said he would be voting against legalisation and accused the government of trying to deflect voters' attention from issues such as the economy and the rising cost of living.

Ms Ardern strongly supported legalising medical pot. Picture: Dianne Manson/Getty Images
Ms Ardern strongly supported legalising medical pot. Picture: Dianne Manson/Getty Images

"I'm pretty cynical that you've got a government here that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election," he said.

Ms Ardern strongly supported legalising medical pot but has not revealed her personal views on recreational marijuana, saying only she does not believe cannabis users should be jailed.

- with wires



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