There are plenty of liberal parties that support cannabis legalization, but not all of them are geared primarily for that purpose. Such is the case with Legalise Cannabis Australia, a political party aimed at legalizing cannabis, which just made a great showing in the recent Australian elections. What does this mean for the future? And what else does Legalise Cannabis Australia stand for, apart from the obvious?
The Legalise Cannabis party of Australia is certainly shaking things up, but does it really have a chance to change things in the country? Our news publication specializes in independent reporting of the cannabis and psychedelics fields. Play along by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and get yourself up on all the news, while also netting deals on tons of stuff like vapes, edibles, and other smoking equipment, including cannabinoid compounds like the popular delta-8 THC. Please remember, these compounds may not be your first choice, and you should not buy them if you are uncomfortable with using them.
What is Legalise Cannabis Australia?
Formerly known as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) party, the renamed Legalize Cannabis Australia is a political party within Australia’s political spectrum, based out of Nimbin, New South Wales. The party pushes policies for the legalization of cannabis for medical, industrial, and recreational purposes.
Founded in 1993 by Neil Quinlan (who ran under the name Nigel Freemarijuana), the party was de-registered as a political party just before the 2007 elections. This was done under the excuse by the Australian Electoral Commission that there was some issue with membership. The group pushed on, and applied again for party registration in early 2010, but delays kept the party from re-establishing itself in time for the 2010 elections. The re-registration finally went through on September 23, 2010.
It remained with its original name until September, 2021, when a vote by party members ushered in a change to the new Legalise Cannabis Australia name. Though it now enjoys the ability to grow in popularity with the public, it does exist within a country with virtually a two-party system, which doesn’t generally allow for big gains by other parties. This is similar to the US, which has many political parties, but none that compare to the democrats and republicans in size or power.
That said, Legalise Cannabis Australia has made some inroads, gaining traction in recent elections. In 2013, it received .71% of the senate vote. In the 2019 federal election, the party managed 260,000 votes, and 1.8% of the primary senate vote. Party leader Michael Balderstone ran in the 2020 Eden-Monaro by-election (an election for electing the next parliament member for the Eden-Monaro division of the House of Representatives), and received 2.3% of the votes, which beat out most other minor party candidates.
The 2021 Western Australia State Election saw the party’s affiliate Legalise Cannabis WA gain two seats in the Legislative Council. Technically, the biggest showing the party had, was in the 1994 Elizabeth Re-Election in South Australia, when it won 5.37% of the primary vote.
The recent Australian election
On May 21, 2022, Australia held its 2022 federal election for voting in members of the 47th Parliament. All 151 seats of the lower house were up for vote, as well as 40 out of 76 seats of the upper house. Going into the election, the government was held by the Liberal/National Coalition with Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the helm. In this election, the Coalition was beat by its rival, and main opponent, the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese.
The Coalition, in fact, suffered its greatest loss in terms of seats won, since 1946, and the Labor party picked up the majority. There was a rise in support for the Greens, as well as other minor parties, including Legalise Cannabis Australia. It might have been a landslide win for the Labor party, if not for the increase in support for minor parties. Albanese became the new Prime Minister on May 23rd, 2022.
For its part, Legalize Cannabis Australia picked up 2-7% of senate votes in the majority of states and the Northern Territory. In Queensland, the party was 1st choice out of 1 in 17 voters. Though this might not sound like much reason for celebration, it does say something when a party of this nature starts to get attention. In fact, the final senate seat in the senate is still being decided between Legalise Cannabis’s Bernie Bradley and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.
The state of cannabis in Australia
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Australia on a federal level, but much like the US, it operates both with federal law, and state law. Each state, therefore, has its own cannabis policy. On a federal level, medical cannabis was legalized in 2016. In 2019, the Capital Territory, home of Canberra, legalized recreational use going against federal policy. As of July 31st, 2020, 18-year old residents and older can have up to 50 grams of dry herb (or 150 grams damp), and two plants with a max of four per household.
All other territories hold recreational cannabis possession as illegal, though they all allow for minimized punishments for first offenses or possession within a certain limit. In South Australia, offenders can sometimes walk away with just a fine, so long as possession is less than 100 grams. In Western Australia, under ten grams can warrant only a mandatory counseling session, with fines and jail time for over that amount. In Queensland, being caught with under 50 grams can net just a drug diversion program for a first offense, but otherwise can come with up to 15 years of jail time. New South Wales gives prison sentences and fines for possession, although under 15 grams can mean only a drug diversion program.
In Tasmania, cautions are handed out for possession of up to 50 grams, of which an offender can collect three. These cautions come with interventions, referrals, and fines. If you’re caught with less than 50 grams in Victoria, you’ll probably get a caution and an educational program, however only two cautions are issued before larger punishments. In the Northern Territory, up to 50 grams is punished with fines, with other penalties sometimes attached. In all of the territories it’s often left to law enforcement to decide how to handle a case.
Will the election change things?
Legalise Cannabis Australia, and its ability to gain traction, certainly shows a trajectory in motion. But it takes a bit more than that to shift policy in a country like Australia. For over two years the Capital Territory has been weed-legal, and yet this hasn’t spread to the other territories.
On the other hand, the Coalition (a joining of the Australian Liberal Party and the Nationals) which just lost its place, was the more conservative voice when it comes to legalization, pushing for cannabis to remain an illicit drug. Both sides of the coalition are against any further legalization.
The Labor party, which just took over, isn’t exactly counter to the Coalition on cannabis. It does support medical legalization, but recreational cannabis is not an issue for the party at the moment. There are some in the party, however, that have started to talk about decriminalization and legalization measures, which is expected, as this is happening everywhere in the world. The third biggest party, the Greens, does support cannabis legalization, but is still a minor group compared to the Labor party and the Coalition, which make up the two central parties in the country.
For the most part, the politics in Australia concerning cannabis, run counter to population views. As of 2019, a National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 66% of those surveyed did not think personal possession of small amounts of cannabis should be a criminal offense. The same survey said that 54% do not approve of regular cannabis use, but what ‘regular use’ is defined as, was not made clear in the write-up. 37% of responders were against legalizing personal use amounts, whereas 41% were for it, and 22% didn’t have an opinion.
What else does the party support?
It’s great to have a strong cannabis legalization effort, but when a party specializes in something like legalizing weed, what else should we expect from them? There are, after all, plenty of things to consider in life apart from the cannabis plant.
The biggest problem I see with the Legalise Cannabis Australia party growing to the point of making real change, is that it doesn’t advertise policy it cares about, outside of cannabis legalization. To be clear, it offers extensive policy on all aspects of cannabis, from environmental factors, to economic factors, to criminal justice factors, and so on. The party makes a good case for the ability of the cannabis industry to impact different sectors of life, and is expansive in all applications of cannabis, and places of overlap with other policy.
But I saw nothing beyond that. If I want to know what its stance is on war policies, or dealing with the issues of poverty and the homeless, I don’t know where that information is. If I want to know what the party pushes in terms of pharmaceutical oversight, healthcare issues, road infrastructure management, or bio-engineering of food, none of that is on the docket. I’m not saying the party doesn’t have a stance on anything else, but if looking through its site, specifically under ‘party policy’ doesn’t lead to it, I have to wonder how useful this party would be at governing a country. Perhaps in the future it’ll be more expressive of its thoughts on policy beyond cannabis.
In all reality, Australia wasn’t about to legalize cannabis regardless of who won the election. The two main parties are both not for it, and no other party has enough power. Though this sentiment of keeping it illegal doesn’t go with public opinion, there isn’t yet a powerful enough push by the people to do anything about it. And so, perhaps a party like Legalise Cannabis Australia will gain enough traction for change in the coming years, but for now, cannabis remains federally illegal for the foreseeable future.
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