Home / U.S. / Is Australia ready to legalize marijuana? Not yet, it seems.

Is Australia ready to legalize marijuana? Not yet, it seems.

"Simply, the war on drugs is really a war on people," said Richard Di Natale, the party leader, to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We need to make cannabis use a reality in Australia."


Among other measures, the proposed Green Party legalization would allow adults to grow up to six plants for personal use.

David Maurice Smith for The New York Times

What is the current situation in Australia?

Possession of marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal in Australia. It is the most widely used illicit drug in the country. According to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in 10 Australians has used cannabis in the past 12 months.

In some states, such as the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and the Northern Territory, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been effectively decriminalized, with criminals facing civil penalties such as fines and ordered to receive counseling.

In other states, such as New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, police officers often warn those who face lower charges for drugs, with criminals diverted to education programs.

Cultivate, sell or transport marijuana, however, may incur criminal charges in any part of the country.

"If someone comes across small amounts of cannabis for personal use, the main answer for me is not It's not a police response, it's a public response," says Professor Steve Allsop of the National Institute for Drug Research University of Curtin. "Putting people in the criminal justice system creates damage."

In 2016, Australia legalized marijuana for medicinal use. But patients say they face great challenges in trying to get the drug, including limited supply, uninformed doctors and high costs.

Around the world, where is marijuana legal?

Currently, marijuana is totally legal in some places: Uruguay and parts of the United States. In Uruguay, which became the first country to legalize marijuana in 2013, it is even sold in pharmacies.

But dozens of other countries have relaxed their marijuana laws over the years, legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing recreational use or facilitating the application of possession laws Argentina, Cambodia, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Peru and (somewhat surprisingly) North Korea are just some of the countries that do not penalize the use of marijuana.

A notable example is Portugal, where the use of all illicit drugs was decriminalized in 2001 and drug users are sent mainly to treatment or fined programs. Since then, the country's prevalence of HIV infection, drug-related incarceration and overdose has decreased.

Jamaica, a country long associated with marijuana and Rastafarianism, also recently relaxed its laws on marijuana possession in 2015.

Marijuana laws change?

For now, the Australian government says no.

And being careful and conservative in legalizing marijuana might not be so bad, said Professor Allsop.

"If you legalize a form of drug use" Once you do it, it is very difficult to back off, "he said." You should carefully evaluate the steps to change instead of taking a big leap into the unknown. "

The problem is unlikely to disappear, especially since legalization has the backing of an important political party such as the Greens. Professor Allsop, who supports a model such as Portugal, says that the urge to see drugs as a problem Public health seems to be gaining momentum in the long term.

"I think there is an appetite for doing that," he said.

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