Regulating Cannabis is Inevitable. We Should Talk About Getting it Right

Article by Alex Wodak and Will Tregoning, The Guardian

The annual turnover of the cannabis market in Australia is estimated to be bigger than our wine market. But unlike our wine market, not a cent of Australia’s cannabis is taxed.

In 2014-15, 66,309 people were arrested in Australia for possessing cannabis. The number of people arrested for cannabis consumer offences increased more than 40% between 2004-5 and 2014-15. No one knows what it costs to police cannabis possession and charge and process the large number of people charged every year with minor cannabis offences. But it would not be cheap.

Yet in a recent poll of just over 1,000 Australians by Essential Media, 55% said they thought cannabis should be taxed and regulated like alcohol or tobacco. That includes a majority of Labor (61%) and Greens (74%) voters and almost half (47%) of the Liberal voters. Only 26% were opposed including 13% strongly opposed.

This means that support is almost as strong in Australia as it is in the USA where a total of eight of the 50 states have now voted to regulate and tax the cannabis trade. Almost a quarter of US citizens live in legal cannabis states, or will soon.

In the 1969 Gallup poll in the US, 12% of people thought cannabis should be made legal. Support rose to 31% by 2000 and almost doubled again to 60% in 2016. In the November 2016 elections, five states held ballots on recreational cannabis regulation while four states held ballots on medicinal cannabis. Four out of the five states passed those ballots including California, a major trend-setter in the United States and around the world. All four states passed their medicinal cannabis ballots.

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