Meredith Bower, a customer at Takoma Wellness Center in Washington DC. Meredith uses cannabis to ease phantom limb pain, after her leg was amputated. Photo: Getty
AS Canada moves to legalise recreational marijuana, Australia may still have a while to wait before it can enjoy similar highs.
The Canadian government has announced it will be introducing legislation next month to legalise the drug by 2018.
WA Labor senator Louise Pratt was a member of the West Australian parliament in 2001, when possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalised.
Those laws were later overturned by the Barnett Liberal government.
“These laws are questions for the states,” she said.
But the issue still polarises federal politicians.
“The simple fact is that cannabis is a scourge,” Liberal senator Eric Abetz told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
“It is linked with a lot of mental issues within the community and therefore to describe it as recreational underestimates the real damage it can do.”
He hoped Australia wouldn’t follow Canada’s path.
Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, who supports legalising marijuana, said there were a number of states in the US that had successfully done so – without the sky falling in.
“There have not been people lying in the streets with drug addled brains. It has been a very positive move,” he told reporters.
Senator Leyonhjelm said most parliamentarians were back in the dark ages when it came to drug policy.
“It’s idiotic,” he said. “The prohibition policy has never worked on anything.”
Consensus over medical marijuana has been easier to find in Australia, with trials taking place in NSW and Victoria, and the federal government legislating in February to allow its legal importation.
Independent senator Derryn Hinch said he had never smoked marijuana but supported its legalisation in Australia.
“I think it’s ridiculous watching big burly cops with guns on their hips arresting plants,” he said.
He said opponents should consider potential economic benefits.
“Look at the tax money being brought into California and Colorado,” he said.
“We could get rid of the budget deficit in two minutes by legalising marijuana.”