The pot party for everyone

MOSHE BERNSTEIN is an adjunct research fellow at Curtin University and a member of the Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party. In this week’s Speaker’s Corner he explains why the party was founded and why they want cannabis legalised. 

ON December 22, Legalise Cannabis Western Australia became a political party. 

Coalesced around the issue of legalisation, many recreational and medical cannabis consumers will support LCWA. 

However, it would be mistaken to dismiss cannabis legalisation as an issue exclusive to users, for it encompasses benefits for all WA residents.

The global trajectory toward legalisation is irrefutable. 

Recently, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from the category of dangerous drugs.

Concerning personal safety, more than 2,000 Australians die annually from overdoses of prescription drugs, 6,000 from diseases caused by alcohol, and over 20,000 from tobacco, while these substances remain legally attainable. 

The far safer cannabis plant, due to its negligible toxicity, has never caused a single fatality. Moreover, regarding community safety, every US state which has legalised cannabis has witnessed a reduction in crime, a decrease not limited to the understandable dwindling of cannabis arrests but also a statistical decline in violent crimes.

Since Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam discovered the psychoactive cannabinoid THC in 1964, enormous strides have been made in the field of medical cannabis. 

Both CBD and THC have been clinically trialled for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, anorexia, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, arthritis, epilepsy, nausea, autism, insomnia, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, and chronic pain. 

A Rostock University Medical Centre study concluded that phytocannabinoids prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, impede blood supply to tumours, and decrease cancer’s capacity to outlast chemotherapy. 

While medical cannabis in Australia is legal, compared to the eastern states, access in Western Australia has been stymied due to the ongoing stigmatisation of THC along with bureaucratic restrictions and delays. Legalisation would enable greater accessibility to safe, natural, and effective medicines for those in need. 

Barclays estimates the global cannabis market will reach USD$272 billion by 2028. 

In this its first year of legalisation, Illinois generated USD$1 billion in revenue. 

In the first 10 months of 2020, Maine’s returns from medical cannabis crops alone totalled USD$221.8m, exceeding profits from its lucrative potato harvest (USD$184.1m). 

WA is 28 times larger than Maine, with double the population, and a climate favourable to cannabis cultivation. The myopic reluctance of WA’s major parties to expedite legalisation hampers the state’s economic development and its future prosperity.

Industrial hemp – cannabis with minimal THC – is a versatile and eco-friendly plant, which can be manufactured into foods, fibre, biofuel, paper, construction material, and nutraceuticals. Hemp crops can reduce the need for deforestation, and, as a biomass crop, decrease greenhouse gas emissions. 

Western Australia has only recently begun to catch up with the eastern states in hemp production; despite its greater size and conducive climate, WA is still far behind Tasmania, the leading national producer of hemp.

Legalisation would deregulate hemp and grant more farmers licenses for cultivation.

A century ago, cannabis medicaments were readily available in chemists and grocery stores, and industrial hemp was a major crop worldwide. 

In 1930 Harry Anslinger, the commissioner of the US Federal Narcotics Commission, facilitated the classification of cannabis as a “dangerous narcotic” and with the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act a ban on its consumption and sales. 

The common term “cannabis” was altered to the exotic “marijuana”, reflecting Anslinger’ s racist media campaign against “drug-crazed Negros and Hispanics” wrongly accused of seducing white women. 

A disproportionate number of people of colour in the US and Australia are even now incarcerated for mere possession of cannabis. 

Every commission of inquiry on cannabis over the past century has echoed the conclusions of the LaGuardia Committee in its 1944 report that cannabis is safe and non-addictive; it is neither a “gateway drug” nor a catalyst for violent crime. The unjust political prohibition and stigmatisation of cannabis should be a matter of concern for any fair-minded person, particularly with thousands of Australians presently languishing in prison for cannabis offences.

Finally, for a nation whose anthem purports to be “one and free”, it is timely for West Australians to demonstrate their value of freedom by legalising a plant that has been in humankind’s pharmacopeia for millennia, its cultivation, consumption and commerce delivering multiple advantages.

None of the other smaller parties, not even the major ones, can guarantee that their policies will create a safer, healthier, wealthier, cleaner, fairer, and freer state.

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