Legislative Assembly of Queensland Social Development Committee Issues Paper
Inquiry into addressing cannabis-related harm in Queensland
Alcohol and tobacco are responsible for 97% of drug-related deaths in Australia and are legal drugs. The fact that they are legal has enabled commonwealth and state governments to reduce the harms resulting from these drugs. Alcohol consumption in Australia per head of population is now about 25% less than it was 30 years ago. The prevalence of tobacco smoking in Australia has fallen dramatically in men and women over the last 40 years. In contrast, cannabis consumption in Australia increased from the 1960s until the 1990s but has since declined slightly.
Concerns about health and other complications from cannabis should be matched by concerns about the harms from and costs of cannabis prohibition. As President Jimmy Carter said ‘Penalties against the use of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of a drug itself; and where they are they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana …’.
The total costs of cannabis law enforcement in Australia are unknown. They are likely to be considerable. While identifying benefits from cannabis law enforcement is difficult, significant unintended negative consequences are all too obvious. The adverse consequences of unsuccessful attempts to enforce drug prohibition include significant police corruption documented in several Royal Commissions (e.g. Costigan 1985; Fitzgerald 1995; Wood 1997; Kennedy 2004).
There is growing support for the view that the least-worst option is the taxation and regulation of cannabis.
The following comments are responses to the questions posed by the inquiry.