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Australia Cannabis Legalization Support Has Doubled in Six Years |

According to a new research report, “Changes in and correlates of Australian public attitudes toward illicit drug use,” published in the Drug and Alcohol ReviewsThe attitudes to cannabis in Australia have dramatically changed. 

National Drug Strategy Household Survey, or NDSHS is a cross-sectional national survey on drug and alcohol usage in Australians over 14 years. This survey excludes people who live in nursing homes or hospitals as well as those without fixed addresses, military personnel, prisoners, and others who don’t speak English. Each three years it samples approximately 20,000 people, using random sampling from 15 locations. 

Australia Specific Results

First, the interesting but not surprising result. The first finding is the most interesting, if not surprising. It shows that support for legalizing cannabis has increased only slightly between 2007-2013. However, it rose dramatically from 25.5 % of the population in 2013, to 41.1 % by 2019. Even though support for legalizing cannabis was higher than for other substances like cocaine or ecstasy it did not rise as dramatically as that for marijuana. For a legalization change of heroin, support did not shift significantly.

The study found no age effect on support for legalization, except in the case of those who are over 50. University graduates and men are more open to legalization than women. Native Australians also support legalization more than foreigners. It doesn’t matter if you are employed or not.

Finally, support for punishment for possessing small quantities for personal use continues to decline.

Significances and Interpretations

No surprise, the key findings are not unexpected. Australia’s progress on reforming medical care has been steady over the last several years. This in and of itself has always changed the conversation—and in every legalizing jurisdiction and country so far. Since 2013, you can see North America and Europe.

While support for the legalization of other “illicit” drugs also was found to have increased, which is in part a generational response to the punitive nature of the War on Drugs, support is also markedly greater for cannabis.

Support across generations is also consistent with other studies elsewhere, despite the Boomers’ reputation as the generation which “rediscovered” cannabis (as well as other illicit drugs). 

North American Reform and its Impact

It is undeniable that the impact of reform in North America (in both Canada and the U.S.) has impacted the discussion about cannabis reform elsewhere since the turn of the century and even more since the start of the last decade’s events, which saw legalization movements take hold in both the U.S. and Canada. This also has everything to do with how news of reform has spread—namely carried through digital, social media channels. 

One thing is certain. The topic of cannabis reform, which has also been discussed in Australia, has grown to be a major global issue over the past decade.

What’s likely to occur next in Australia?

The question of “What is the best way to answer this?” remains open-ended, even now. 

Just last December, a German survey on recreational reform showed that less than half of Germans supported it. The new coalition is keen to legalize full-boat ownership.

The fact that Australian cannabis reform has been heavily influenced, or has followed, German developments could indicate that the topic could soon be brought back up at a national level. 

Queensland’s first marijuana legalization-specific political party was founded last year. This year, a “territory” effort in Victoria was squashed in August. Since the beginning of the year, the issue has heated up in Victoria. It has gained more momentum at the national level as medical reform progresses.

It is clear that the matter will not stop moving because Australia, along with other countries is beginning to think about cannabis reform. 

The study was published even though the Australian national health regulator had rejected the use of psychedelics as a therapeutic option.

English-Speaking Cannabis Reform: The Impact

One thing is also undeniably clear during the period this study has taken place—namely the importance also of English-speaking, global digital, pro-cannabis media. This has in turn driven all the countries where English is spoken to advance the cause in each case, starting with Uruguay. 

It will be a significant impact on the fact that Germany is expected to become the most industrialized country in legalizing recreational marijuana use, at minimum legislatively. It is important to note that DeutschlandAustralian doctors and nurses who wish to make a sale to the market are already interested in this product.

The Aussies now appear to be close to greater reform no matter what. And like New Zealand, which also narrowly defeated recreational reform last year in the general election by just over two points, not to mention in other countries, steady as she goes at this point means that majorities in most democratic, Western nations will be in the “for” column within the next couple of years.

There will be a growing industry that finds a way to navigate the complex regulatory and development spaces. That includes the down-under conversation.