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A call for urgent cannabis policy reform in Victoria: The community has spoken

Key points: 

  • Penington Institute’s new research affirms Victorians are in favour of cannabis regulation for adult use in our State.  
  • Victoria’s current, outdated cannabis policies fail our community, cause irrevocable harms and cost taxpayers millions.  
  • Evidence from the ACT demonstrates that a shift away from criminalisation can reduce strain on justice and law enforcement systems and help protect the community. 
  • Penington Institute will develop a sensible model for cannabis regulation in Victoria. 

New research (November 2023) commissioned by Penington Institute shows Victorians unequivocally support cannabis regulation for adult personal use, recognising the critical and urgent need to mitigate the harms of the current approach. The research also confirms an overriding community sentiment that our current laws and policies remain starkly misaligned and outdated. 

The research, which surveyed over 1,500 Victorians, marks the highest level of support seen in an independent third-party survey in favour of cannabis regulation over criminalisation. More than half (54 per cent) of Victorians surveyed said they are in favour of a regulated cannabis market for adult use.  

John Ryan, Penington Institute CEO, says “The community wants change, and so we must listen and act. More and more Victorians reject the criminalisation of cannabis and the harms inherent with this approach. Our research shows they are in favour of a model of careful, sensible cannabis regulation.” 

View the research findings here

“The ACT decriminalised cannabis for personal use in 2020 and the evidence shows that there has been little change in consumption rates, no change in cannabis-related hospitalisations and significantly fewer cannabis-related arrests. Less arrests means fewer resources wasted, and less harm to otherwise law-abiding community members,” says John.  

“Cannabis law enforcement costs the Australian community well in excess of $1.7 billion per year. A regulated cannabis market can reduce the burden on our already overloaded justice and law enforcement systems, freeing them up to focus on other, more serious crimes. But it can do more than this.” 

“While the ACT example shows us that removing the criminal penalties doesn’t lead to an instant rise in consumption, it still leaves many people interfacing with the criminal market if they don’t grow their own. Victoria has an opportunity to take the logical next step to regulate in such a way that shrinks the criminal market and helps keep people safer through a regulated supply.” 

Penington Institute supports responsible cannabis regulation and is developing a model which will strike a careful balance: drawing people away from uncontrolled products in the criminal market to safe, regulated products, while prioritising community health and safety. In developing the model, Penington Institute will consult widely with health professionals, government and interested community members.  

“We can certainly learn from what works and what doesn’t through Australian and overseas examples,” says John, “but we also know that it’s essential to give interested community members the chance to have their say. We will be seeking out and listening to a variety of voices and opinions as we develop a model that protects Victorians.” 

John says, “Our research confirms Victorians regard cannabis as far less harmful than other illicit drugs, and less harmful than alcohol. It shows Victorians view a regulated cannabis market as a superior solution to the current criminalisation approach, especially when public health education is a core component.” 

“Our current approach to managing cannabis has run its course and the time for change is now,” says John. “Penington Institute is stepping up to do the work, so that Victoria’s cannabis regulations keep pace with what the community is calling for and what will help to reduce harms to the community. We encourage all Victorians to support us with this important initiative.”   

To view the research findings, visit https://www.penington.org.au/cannabis-platform/  

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