Cannabis plant
Cannabis plant contributed

I admit it, so do a third of Australians over 22

TO MOST people, Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm is best known for comments made to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, his subsequent refusal to apologise and her threats to sue for defamation.

Leyonhjelm describes himself as a libertarian, or someone who believes in free will, and yesterday he came out swinging for the easing of restrictions on recreational cannabis use.

While some of his figures didn't survive the fact check, he was correct in saying that a third of all Australians, aged 22 and older, admit to smoking cannabis at some point in their lives - one million in the past year.

My research showed that in 2015, the cost of drug law enforcement in Australia was $1.18 billion and in 2011-12, 65 per cent of drug arrests were for cannabis.

Any court reporter will tell you that every day, people still face the magistrate for minor possession charges.

Senator Leyonhjelm introduced a bill to remove commonwealth restrictions on cannabis in May this year.

In June, the Senate agreed to hold a public hearing and called for submissions.

He says the inquiry heard no evidence that justified a recommendation for his Bill to not be passed, but rather confirmed the status quo was untenable.


Nimbin MardiGRass.
Nimbin MardiGRass. Marc Stapelberg

"Nobody is saying that cannabis is totally innocent, but recreational marijuana certainly has a cleaner rap sheet than alcohol," he said yesterday.

Along with most people I know, I'm among the one third of Australians who have smoked cannabis at some point.

I mis-spent my early 20s in Maleny, which was a little bit famous for its cannabis culture, a relic lifestyle for those who were, or wished they'd been, around in the 1960s.

We would sit around the kitchen tables, roll a joint and over many - yes you read this right - cups of tea, we would debate politics, religion, social issues and music.

With a few exceptions, most of my hippie friends didn't drink a lot of alcohol.

Sometimes we'd laugh until our sides split, mainly we thought our world view was superior, but never did anyone get up and coward punch someone for disagreeing with them.

I'd say any magistrate would struggle to remember a time someone appeared in court for getting violent because they were high on pot, unless there were other drugs or alcohol involved.

Marijuana might make you lazy, but it doesn't make you violent.

A "deep and meaningful" conversation is much more likely than a tirade of abuse.

I don't advocate we should all sit around getting stoned, but in the context of a beer after work or a few drinks at a party, I agree it's time to get a bit real.

In the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2013, 42.1 per cent of people believed a caution, warning or no action was appropriate for people found with cannabis for personal use and 88.1 per cent supported decriminalisation.

Surely our police and courts have better things to do than waste a billion dollars on busting regular citizens.