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Push to legalize pot rejected

An attempt to legalize the recreational use of cannabis on a national scale has been set back after experts raised concerns it would lead to increased use of the drug among young people.

A Senate committee on Friday rejected a bill introduced by Greens Senator David Shoebridge that calls for allowing cannabis possession for personal use in Australia, as well as the creation of a national agency to regulate the cultivation of the plants.

After receiving more than 200 submissions, the committee noted evidence from leading medical bodies, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which warned that wider access could worsen health risks, especially for adolescents.

“Ultimately, the committee is concerned that the legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use would create as many, if not more, problems than the bill seeks to solve,” the report said.

“While the bill attempts to do this, it does not address a number of important concerns, for example ensuring that children and young people do not have access to cannabis (particularly home cultivation), controlling risky cannabis use and effective monitoring of THC content. ”

Recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in NevadaRecreational use of marijuana becomes legal in Nevada

Several countries, including half of all US states, have legalized recreational marijuana use. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

The committee report noted that the majority of submissions agreed that cannabis use “should be treated primarily as a health problem rather than a criminal problem.”

Cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia, according to the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey. More than 2.5 million people have recently used cannabis.

In 2019, about 11.7 percent of people aged 14 reported using the drug at least once in the past 12 months. This figure was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, at 16 per cent.

Under the Greens model, adults in Australia would be able to legally grow six cannabis plants, but it would remain a crime to sell the drug to anyone under the age of 18.

The bill also proposes the creation of licensed Amsterdam-style “cannabis cafes” that sell marijuana products, such as edibles.

In his dissenting report, Senator Shoebridge argued that creating a national cannabis market would generate thousands of jobs and remove “billions” from the black market.

“This research clearly shows how evidence-based and people-oriented reforms such as these will, as usual, have to break the stranglehold of politics,” he said.

He said despite the committee’s findings, the Greens plan to introduce the bill in parliament this year.

SENATE ESTIMATESSENATE ESTIMATES

Senator Shoebridge claims up to 80,000 Australians could be pushed out of the criminal justice system if his bill is passed. Photo: NewsWire / Martin Ollman.

“The majority report in this inquiry fairly fairly reflects the evidence we had in the inquiry, although it does not provide details of the hundreds of individual submissions to the inquiry that, almost unanimously, asked us to vote this into law and ultimately ban cannabis legalize,” he added.

Medical cannabis was legalized in Australia in 2016 and last year around 700,000 people reported using cannabis for medical purposes.

Penalties for illegal use of marijuana, which remains illegal in all states and territories, vary depending on the jurisdiction.

In NSW, a first-time offender caught with a small amount of cannabis can receive a formal warning.

Offenders caught with up to 50 grams of cannabis in Queensland should first be offered a drug diversion program as an alternative to criminal prosecution.

In Western Australia, maximum fines can range from $2,000 to $20,000 and up to two years in prison.

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