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Australia: Northern Territory to green-light industrial hemp industry as hopes for medical marijuana continue

The Northern Territory Government is set to green-light the industrial hemp industry, and moves are afoot to commercially cultivate medical marijuana.

Draft legislation to legalise the growing of industrial hemp has gone to Cabinet, a Government spokesperson said, with new laws that would bring the Territory into line with other Australian states expected to pass by the end of the year.

A trial crop in Katherine has proven successful, with the region’s climate conditions expected to give the NT a “big commercial advantage”.

“Following a successful department trial, the Territory Labor Government believes there is serious potential to grow industrial hemp as a new job-creating industry,” a spokesperson said.

“Hemp can be used in many daily products … and we believe it will create long-term local jobs and business opportunities.”
Talks are also underway within the Northern Territory Government about the commercial cultivation of medical marijuana, with an aim to implement legislation similar to Victoria and New South Wales.

The move would bring the NT into line with other jurisdictions, allowing the production of medical marijuana by pharmaceutical companies and the retail and distribution of medicinal marijuana products to patients.

Industry could be a boon for agriculture

Federal legislation for the growth of medical marijuana passed in February 2016.

“There is serious job-creating potential in this expanding medical industry and we are interested in the opportunity for our agricultural sector to be a part of it,” the spokesperson said.

“Any new job-creating industry must be explored seriously, especially where the NT has a competitive advantage.”

Katherine Mayor Fay Miller said the success of the department trial proved the region’s agricultural industry was up to the task.

“Obviously this is going to have long-term implications that are positive, so it’s very, very encouraging,” she said.

“We’re certainly in the preparations of getting ready for all growth and development … and this is one of those future crops that will be very, very well catered for in Katherine.”

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Gone to pot. Places where marijuana is legal

LAST week two American states legalised the use of small amounts of marijuana. Critics immediately claimed it would allow busloads of tourists to travel interstate, pull cones, snowboard and then go home.
Hit the slopes? Then a bong? Fox News reported.

Despite the fear mongering, it’s not like the US is going to turn into a mini Amsterdam with pot freely available for sale in coffee shops. It will in fact have laws similar to many Australian states.

From December 6, Colorado will allow “personal use and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It will also allow people to grow up to six personal marijuana plants as long as they are in a locked space.

In Washington, plants will still be prohibited unless people gain medical authorisation. But users will legally be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

In Australia marijuana is decriminalised for personal use in small amounts in the ACT, SA, WA and the NT. In all other states it is illegal.

There are no bus loads of tourists travelling from NSW to Canberra to smoke pot and check out the National Gallery.

Travellers heading overseas who have an addiction to marijuana should check local laws before they think about taking a puff. The green stuff can land you a long stint in jail.

That is unless you travel to these countries. Here’s a quick list of the places where marijuana is actually legal.

Argentina – legal for personal use in small amounts.

Cyprus – possession of up to 15 grams for personal use and five plants.

Ecuador – possession is not illegal defined by law 108.

Mexico – personal use of up to five grams is legal.

The Netherlands – cannabis is sold in “coffee shops” other types of sales and possession is illegal.

Peru – up to eight grams of cannabis is legal as long as the user is not in possession of another drug.

Switzerland – On January 1, 2012, the cantons Vaud, Neuchatel, Geneva and Fribourg allowed the growing and cultivation of up to 4 cannabis plants per person, in an attempt to curb illegal street trafficking.

Uruguay – possession for personal use is not penalised. BUT the amount allowed for personal use is not specified in the law.

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Australia should tax and regulate cannabis, not prohibit it

The decision to ban cannabis was an accident of history.

There was no careful root and branch review of the evidence. Instead, Australia was represented at a League of Nations meeting in Geneva in 1925 where delegates from several countries decried the dangers of cannabis. As Robert Kendell outlines in his book Cannabis Condemned

“A claim by the Egyptian delegation that [cannabis] was as dangerous as opium, and should therefore be subject to the same international controls, was supported by several other countries. No formal evidence was produced and conference delegates had not been briefed about cannabis.”

Accordingly, the Commonwealth wrote to the states after the meeting instructing them to prohibit cannabis.

This is the quicksand upon which the mighty edifice of cannabis prohibition in Australia was constructed.

Once enacted, repeal — or even a careful review — of benefits and costs of cannabis prohibition became increasingly difficult.

Pot convictions have ‘adverse social consequences’

Cannabis arrests have accounted for the largest proportion of illicit drug arrests in Australia. In 2015-16, of the two million Australians who use cannabis every year there were almost 80,000 cannabis arrests, a 6 per cent increase from the previous year.

Of these arrests, the overwhelming majority (90 per cent) were consumers while the remainder (10 per cent) were providers. Yet in 2017, 92 per cent of drug users reported in a national survey that obtaining hydroponic cannabis was “easy” or “very easy” while 75 per cent reported obtaining bush cannabis was “easy” or “very easy”.

In the 1980s, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs, South Australia adopted a Cannabis Expiation Notice (CEN) scheme while Western Australia retained a harsher approach:

“A comparative study of minor marijuana offenders in South Australia and Western Australia concluded that the more punitive prohibition approach had little more deterrent effect upon marijuana users than the CEN scheme. The adverse social consequences of a marijuana conviction were, however, seen to outweigh those of receiving an expiation notice. In fact, a higher proportion of those apprehended for marijuana use in Western Australia reported problems with employment, further involvement with the criminal justice system as well as accommodation and relationship problems.”

It is difficult to find reliable estimates of the cost of cannabis prohibition in Australia and an even greater challenge to identify benefits from banning the drug.

Supporters of cannabis prohibition frequently assert with great confidence that punitive approaches reduce consumption while a lenient approach increases use. Yet credible evidence to support this contention is unimpressive.

Drug policy has surprisingly little effect, if any, on consumption patterns but does produce serious harm.

A study comparing residents of more liberal Amsterdam and more punitive San Francisco using the same methodology found less illicit drug use (including cannabis) in Amsterdam and a far greater likelihood that San Francisco residents were also offered heroin, cocaine or amphetamine on the most recent occasion of trying to buy cannabis.

The harms resulting from cannabis prohibition are far greater than the harms resulting from cannabis itself as former US president Jimmy Carter observed:

“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.”

 

Cannabis tax revenue could fund treatment
Taxing cannabis would provide much-needed revenue for government.Colorado state in the US began taxing and regulating cannabis in 2014 and has used the revenue generated to rebuild old school buildings and repair roads. California is using this tax to rejuvenate areas badly damaged by the War On Drugs.
Australia could allocate these funds to improving and expanding alcohol and drug prevention and treatment, an area governments usually find difficult to fund properly.Regulation would enable governments to mandate plain packaging, like we have for cigarettes. Packages should provide health warnings, help-seeking information and consumer product information (including content of psychoactive ingredients and their concentration).