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Victoria poll shows majority support for legalising pot

A majority of Victorians think the pot prohibition makes no sense at all.

A majority of Victorians think the pot prohibition makes no sense at all. Photo: Getty

The war on drugs should not go on against cannabis, according to a Victorian poll.

More than half (54 per cent) of 1511 Victorians over 18 who took part in an online survey late last year were in favour of decriminalising cannabis and creating a regulated market for personal adult use.

Almost one in three (28.5 per cent) of respondents opposed the idea and 17.5 per cent were unsure.

The survey, conducted by polling outfit RedBridge on behalf of public health research and drug policy body Penington Institute, shows the highest level of support for regulation over criminalisation in an Australian independent third-party poll so far.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan, who chaired an independent panel review into the North Richmond supervised injecting room, said the community wants change and the state must listen.

“More and more Victorians reject the criminalisation of cannabis and the harms inherent with this approach,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

‘Careful, sensible regulation’

“Our research shows they are in favour of a model of careful, sensible cannabis regulation.”

The ACT decriminalised personal use of cannabis in 2020 and Mr Ryan said evidence showed there had since been little uptick in consumption rates, no change in cannabis-related hospitalisations and significantly fewer cannabis-related arrests.

“Less arrests means fewer resources wasted, and less harm to otherwise law-abiding community members,” he said.

“Cannabis law enforcement costs the Australian community well in excess of $1.7 billion per year.”

Currently, medicinal cannabis or marijuana can be used with a doctor’s prescription in Victoria but recreational use by adults is a crime.

The poll showed 20.8 per cent of Victorians strongly agree or agree current laws are working well to address drug harms.

Education beats punishment

Two out of three (65.6 per cent) respondents said the state should focus more on education for young people, rather than punishment through the criminal justice system.

The Penington Institute said it would develop a “sensible model” for cannabis regulation in Victoria.

“Our current approach to managing cannabis has run its course and the time for change is now,” Mr Ryan said.

Premier Jacinta Allan on Sunday said she hadn’t seen the Penington Institute report.

“They’re an institute that do good work and provide important data and analysis,” she told reporters.

“But … I’ve got nothing to announce today.”

The Victorian government left the door ajar for cannabis policy reform in November as Ms Allan and Opposition Leader John Pesutto admitted to past use.

At the time, Ms Allan stressed the government had no plans to decriminalise adult use of cannabis but defended a commitment to listen to experts on the topic.

-AAP

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