July 14th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY By-elections a trial run for next federal election

SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook bans reflect a lack of impartiality

CANBERRA OBSERVED The gloves are on for by-election proxy bouts

FEDERAL POLITICS Federal ALP platform reads like a radical on a soapbox

ENVIRONMENT 'Climate change' news is fake news

BRITISH HISTORY Abolition of the Corn Laws paved the way for cheap food

LIFE ISSUES A world of competing sorrows: Ireland's abortion referendum

CULTURE The wee folk and their cousins, up and down the scale

WESTERN CIVILISATION Three great anniversaries of the West

FICTION Autumn Alexei's Story

MUSIC ABBA; Unstoppable, ubiquitous

CINEMA Jurassic World: Fallen kingdom

BOOK REVIEW Vision for the future, if we want to claim it

BOOK REVIEW Taking to task failed privilege

BOOK REVIEW Where Tolkien and St Thomas agree


FOREIGN AFFAIRS Beijing goes 'boo', Qantas gets in a flap

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Opposition mounts to legalisation of cannabis

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Opposition mounts to legalisation of cannabis

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 14, 2018

A private member’s bill introduced into Federal Parliament by NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm (pictured below) to legalise the possession for personal use of cannabis is now under consideration by a federal parliamentary inquiry.

Cannabis (marijuana) is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia.

Senator Leyonhjelm is a radical free-market advocate who believes that rest­rictions on drug use should be removed as a matter of principle.

In May, he introduced the Criminal Code and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Commonwealth Rest­rictions on Cannabis) Bill 2018.

He said: “Adults should be free to make their own choices, as long as they do not harm others. Accordingly, this bill removes offences and civil penalty provisions in Commonwealth law for dealings with cannabis.

“The bill amends the Criminal Code Act 1995. It prevents cannabis, including any product obtained from a cannabis plant, from being defined as a controlled or border-controlled drug.

“In so doing the bill excludes dealings with cannabis from the serious drug offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code. For completeness, the bill amends the Criminal Code Regulations 2002 so that cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) are no longer listed as controlled and border-controlled drugs.

“The bill amends the Crimes (Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act 1990.

“It removes cannabis and THC from the act’s definition of narcotic drug, and removes dealings in cannabis and THC from the act’s definition of dealing in drugs. Together this serves to remove dealings with cannabis from the act’s offence provisions.”

The Senate referred the provisions of the bill for a public inquiry, and invited public submissions.


The Senate has received submissions in favour of legalisation from bodies such as the Eros Association (which represents the prostitution industry), assorted academics, Dr Alex Wodak’s Drug Law Reform Foundation, and other bodies.

It has also received detailed submissions from organisations opposed to legalisation, including the Drug Advisory Council of Australia (DACA), the Dalgarno Institute, and the Western Australia Police Force.

In the WA Police Force submission, WA Assistant Police Commissioner Gary Budge said that marijuana had been detected in more fatal road accidents than any other illicit drug and warned that any attempt to legalise its use will only line the pockets of organised crime groups.

He added: “Counterparts at the United States of America Drug Enforcement Agency have advised that, in places where cannabis has been legalised, it has enabled organised crime networks to either legitimise their cannabis businesses and/or continue to sell cannabis on the unregulated black market, where it remains cheaper and avoids being subject to tax.

“The WA Police Force is of the view that the loosening of any restrictions on cannabis would have significant and far-reaching detrimental impacts on the community.”

The Drug Advisory Council of Australia (DACA) submission is extremely powerful, as it firmly contradicts each of the claims made by Senator Leyonhjelm for legalisation of marijuana.

DACA first challenged the claim of unlimited freedom put forward by the Senator.

It said: “While this maxim of adult freedom has merit, it is not absolute or never solely about individualistic pursuits. Freedom requires responsibility, particularly where it concerns how the exercise of choice endangers minors and dependants. It is the very reason the law sets boundaries and produces an ordered society. Our government protects freedom in order to foster the best environment for its citizenry to pursue the greatest common good. 

“Yet increasingly, the effects of individual choices detrimentally impact on, not only directly on families, but also on the wider community, specifically on taxpayers.

“The burden of primary health care (hospitals, ambulance) and secondary welfare costs (Centrelink and disability support) make up half of the government’s expenditure. In effect, high welfare-dependant nations run the risk of continually buffering the impact of adult choices.”

DACA then established that cannabis is more harmful than tobacco – both in its psycho-social and medical consequences – that it severely and adversely affects brain development, particularly among young people, and that its known side effects include a tendency to induce psychosis and depression.

The submission pointed out that at a time of unprecedented concern over the extent of youth depression and suicide, the danger that its use would aggravate these conditions is such that it should not be legalised.

DACA’s submission also challenged Senator Leyonhjelm’s claim – previously made by Dr Alex Wodak – that 80,000 Australians are charged with cannabis possession every year.

DACA produced evidence that only 42,000 people are imprisoned across the whole of Australia and, according to statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only a little over 2,000 people are imprisoned for all illicit drug offences, not just cannabis.

The Senate inquiry will report on August 17, 2018.

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Last Modified:
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