Is cannabis legalization heading “down under”? A new survey suggests that more Australians than ever are ready to take the leap.
The 2019 edition of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, conducted each year by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a government agency, found that 41 percent of Australians support the legalization of cannabis, compared with 37 percent who were opposed.
That makes 2019 the first that more people were in favor of legalization than against it, according to the institute. The survey produced another milestone: for the first time, pot had a higher level of personal approval of regular use by an adult than tobacco.
“In 2019, alcohol (45%) continued to have the highest level of personal approval of regular adult use than any other drug. For the first time, cannabis had a higher level of approval than tobacco (19.6% compared with 15.4%). The level of approval for cannabis has continued to increase since 2007 (6.6%),” the authors of the study wrote. “Alcohol was the only drug for which the level of approval of regular use by an adult was higher than disapproval (45% compared with 21%). Alcohol, cannabis (54%) and tobacco (61%) had the lowest levels of disapproval, while heroin (96%), inhalants (95%) and meth/amphetamine (95%) had the highest levels of disapproval.”
They continued: “Personal approval of regular drug use was consistently higher among individuals who had used that particular drug recently than among those who had not used the drug in the preceding year or their lifetime. Levels of personal approval varied by drug type, with people who recently used marijuana/cannabis (68%), hallucinogens (65%), GHB (55%) and alcohol (52%) reporting higher levels of approval. On the other hand, people who used methadone or buprenorphine, meth/amphetamine, heroin and inhalants had lower levels of approval (less than 20%).”
Support For Cannabis Law Reform
With regard to legalization of pot, the authors noted that support for an end to prohibition grew six percentage points in the last four years, rising from 35 percent in 2016 to 41 percent last year.
“Fewer people thought that possession of cannabis should be a criminal offence (down from 26% in 2016 to 22% in 2019) or that penalties should be increased for the sale or supply of cannabis (down from 50% to 44%),” they continued. “If cannabis were to be legalised, nearly 4 in 5 (78%) people claimed they would still not use it. However, there was an increase from 2016 to 2019 in the proportion of people who said they would ‘try it’ (7.4% to 9.5%) and ‘use it more often than you do now.”
Australia has long had fairly harsh laws against recreational marijuana use, though the survey and recent policy suggest that a change could be afoot. Last year, the nation’s capital, Canberra, made history in becoming the first Australian city to legalize pot. Marijuana is still banned on the federal level, however, creating a potential situation not unlike the one here in the United States, where several states have defied federal law in passing their own measures legalizing recreational use.