Article by Isabella Kwai, The New York Times
For a brief moment on Monday, marijuana users rallied around a proposal from the Greens party to legalize the drug’s use for recreational purposes in Australia.
But those hopes were quashed the next day, as Greg Hunt, the minister for health, said the government would oppose the plan. Marijuana, he said, was a gateway to other drugs like methamphetamines.
“Our job is to protect the health of Australians,” he said on Tuesday. “This action by the Greens risks the health of Australians.”
Here’s what you should know about the marijuana debate in Australia.
How might marijuana legalization work?
The Greens plan envisions a government-regulated system in which a newly created agency would act as wholesaler, buying marijuana from farmers and selling it to licensed shops. The proposal would also allow adults to grow up to six plants for personal use. And it would ban purchases by those under 18, and prohibit advertising of the product.
As with alcohol and tobacco, cannabis sales would be taxed. Revenue would go to the federal budget to fund education, treatment and harm-reduction programs.
“Quite simply, the war on drugs is really a war on people,” Richard Di Natale, the party’s leader, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We need to get real about cannabis use in Australia.”