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National drug survey reveals increased community support for cannabis regulation alongside other sensible drug policy reforms

The results of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2022-23 (NDSHS) released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reinforce a clear message that Australians are sending to policymakers: Australia is ready for cannabis policy reform.  

According to the survey, 45 per cent of Australians support legalising and regulating cannabis, a jump from 41.1 per cent in 2019. For the first time, the proportion of people supporting legalisation outpaced the 39 per cent of respondents who support increased penalties for the sale or supply of cannabis. 

The NDSHS also reveals Australians are increasingly aware of the futility of maintaining criminal penalties on cannabis use and possession. Only 19.8 per cent favour treating possession of cannabis for personal use as a criminal offence in the latest data, a decrease from the already low 22.1 per cent in 2019.  

These results align with the position of Penington Institute that the criminalised cannabis model is not working: it fails to control supply, leaves the market in the hands of criminals, and costs billions of dollars in enforcement, all while hindering a public health-led approach to managing the health harms that are associated with problematic cannabis use.  

A regulated adult-use cannabis market that prioritises public health and community safety is a better response to individual and community needs. These include the needs of people engaging in moderate- and high-risk cannabis use, which NDSHS data indicate are on the rise. 

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said,

“The results indicate that average Australians are much more clear-eyed about the need for cannabis reform than our elected officials. The outdated criminalised cannabis model should be replaced with regulated markets that end the consumption of unregulated, unsafe cannabis and stop funnelling money to organised criminals and wasting law enforcement resources.” 

Penington Institute is also pleased to see community sentiment shift in favour of other sensible public-health centred drug policy reform, such as drug checking services and safe consumption rooms. Support for drug checking, also known as pill testing, has increased from 57 per cent in 2019 to 64 per cent, while support for supervised consumption rooms has increased from 47 per cent in 2019 to 53 per cent in the latest survey. 

For more information
See our recent report Cannabis in Australia 2023, which follows from our comprehensive Cannabis in Australia 2022.
See our latest Australia’s Annual Overdose Report released August 2023.

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