New push to legalise cannabis and sell it in shops

The Turnbull Government's Health Minister has described marijuana as a gateway drug to ice as the Greens call for a people's vote to held on legalising the mind-altering substance

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The Greens have urged Australians to look to the United States, Spain and Uruguay as examples of legalising cannabis leading to a drop in drug-related crime, and argued it could also provide welcome revenue through the taxation system.

In a statement, Di Natale characterised the policy as a harm minimisation approach that treats "drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue" and a rational response to the "failed" policy of prohibition.

In January the health minister, Greg Hunt, announced a plan for a home-grown industry of cannabis products for export but at that time only 350 patients in Australia had accessed local products. "The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented", the minister told reporters in Melbourne.

"It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a risky black market", Senator Di Natale said.

Greg Hunt accused the Greens of proposing an idea that'risks the health of Australians
Greg Hunt accused the Greens of proposing an idea that'risks the health of Australians

"Governments around the world are realising that prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than it prevents", Senator Di Natale said on Monday. "It's time Australia joined them and legalised cannabis for adult use", he said.

The minor party wants to redefine cannabis as a legal substance, with licences issued for its production and sale.

Senator Richard Di Natale argued his party's proposal would not result in the widespread sale and use of cannabis, and claimed there would be strict regulations on sale and production.

"Cannabis accounts for most illicit drug arrests across Australia and each year cannabis consumption and arrests are growing", he said.

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A bill to legalize recreational marijuana use is making its way through Canadian Parliament, the news site reports.

He said the Greens had rehashed an existing policy, which was the equivalent of "political click-bait".

"I call on political parties of all stripes to join the Greens in committing to just legalise it", he said.

Western Australia's state Labor government was the first to rule out decriminalising or legalising cannabis on Tuesday.

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Support runs as high as 55% when people are asked if cannabis should be taxed and regulated like alcohol or tobacco.

Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch also backed the Greens' push, saying "you'd ban alcohol and cigarettes" too if the argument was that it's bad for you.

The plan has the backing of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, a body that works to take a harm reduction approach to drugs.

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