Australia often lags the rest of the world in social change
Australia often lags behind its Western world counterparts when it comes to social change. The UK and the US, for example, legalized Gay Marriage 4 and 2 years respectively, prior to Australia adopting equivalent legislation. Even now, a public debate goes on within the East Coast states of Australia openly criticizing the government for the extremely low number of female politicians in parliament. The gender pay gap is as big an issue Down Under as it is elsewhere, although garners far less media coverage.
Progressing these issues appears to be harder in Australia, despite the country being one of the worlds earliest adopters of technology. Oz has one of the highest rates of Social Media use and smartphone adoption in the world, for example. It appears that the likelihood of legalizing cannabis for recreational use then, will take some time, despite rapidly changing attitudes in Canada, New Zealand and the US.
The issue of legal cannabis is starting to appear in Australia
There has been some change, concerning the use of marijuana for medical reasons in recent years, however. Australia legalized medicinal cannabis products at a Federal and State level in 2016. Adoption of medical cannabis has been stymied by bureaucracy and red tape ever since, although the government is visibly trying to deal with those issues, and progress has been made.
Australia is not immune to consideration of the economic benefits of marijuana, either. The government has openly stated its desire to be the world’s number one supplier of medical marijuana although there has been a dearth of policy behind the bold claim.
Legalization of medical marijuana, however, is a clear, and visible step towards broader acceptance and has been a clear milestone in the drugs acceptance elsewhere.
The issue is starting to form in the public consciousness. It was raised as recently as last month, by the Australian Green Party (an Australian Political Party with generally progressive views that support the environment, amongst other things.) Their representative, Senator Richard Di Natalie, who is a medical doctor himself and has direct experience of the negative effects of current drugs legalization.
Existing laws which, in Australia, as elsewhere, lumps cannabis in to the same group as heroin and Meth-amphetamine, and treats users as criminals. Di Natalie proposed changing that framework, building his proposed policy framework around treating drug use as a social concern rather than a police matter. Unfortunately, from the point of view of those who would wish to see marijuana legitimized, his announcements amounted to nothing – this time.
It will likely be experience in other countries that encourages Australia to legalize
It seems the most likely that it will be experience in other countries which creates the acceptance of cannabis legalization required amongst politicians to see it happen. Results available from Colorado provide empirical evidence that legalization does not create some of the harm that opponents of the scheme fear. Levels of teenage use have fallen, tax receipts are sizable and have been applied sensibly in the state. Thousands of jobs have been created and the fabric of society has not been unwoven.
Public support is already behind the movement, with the majority of Aussies now more pro than con legalization. The current, more conservative government will hold a National Election in 2018, which will give the Greens another chance to float the issue.
Although Australia is a laggard in adopting new social policies, the acceptance of marijuana legalization in countries with extremely similar values and social norms seems likely to have an effect long term.
Given the influence that social media plays in gathering and amplifying public support for merit worthy social cause which the government is ignoring majority public support for – like Gay Marriage and Recreational Cannabis legalization, Australia’s technological early adoption could be the thing that accelerates progress towards the goal. And, when it does happen, with luck, Australia can learn from the practical problems that the countries preceding it have learned – picking the right age at which people can buy it and avoiding the delays that Canada are currently working through.
Author Bio: Neil Aitken is CEO of Cannabis Express, a website dedicated to providing the facts and information Australians need to decide how to vote on the subject of whether Australia should legalize recreational cannabis for personal use.