Decriminalise cannabis for personal use, RSA urges McGowan government

Si Gladman / 28 May 2022

The Rationalist Society of Australia is urging the Western Australia government to follow through on its 2019 policy pledge to decriminalise the possession of small amounts cannabis for personal use.

Earlier this month, the McGowan government’s members in the Legislative Council voted down a motion put forward by the Legalise Cannabis WA Party’s Brian Walker. 

In the motion, Dr Walker (pictured) noted the government’s own support for the policy in its 2019 policy platform document, which states that Labor “will decriminalise the possession of small amounts marijuana for personal use and return to a system of infringement notice penalties and diversion to counselling services”.

The RSA supports decriminalising cannabis for recreational use and to treat any misuse as a health issue and not as a criminal one.

In his speech to the parliament, Dr Walker said the Labor Party in Western Australia had a long history of supporting the reform, noting that the current Premier Mark McGowan spoke in favour of it 20 years ago.

In 2003, the Gallop government introduced the Cannabis Control Act, which effectively decriminalised the possession of a small amount of cannabis and the cultivation of a few plants on private property for personal use. The measures were later repealed by the Barnett government.

At that time, Mr McGowan commended his party for being in favour of “sensible drug reform, particularly cannabis”.

“The central reason for this Government’s introducing this Bill is because it does not want those people in our community who may be small-time users – once or twice or even 10 times – to have a criminal record,” Mr McGowan said.

“All we are trying to do is ensure that some people who might make a mistake are not burdened with a criminal record for the rest of their lives.”

RSA spokesperson for Western Australia Vicki Caulfield said the state government should move to decriminalise cannabis within its current term of parliament, following similar reforms in the Australian Capital Territory recently. 

In his speech to parliament, Dr Walker urged fellow MLCs to be mindful about the negative impact on the futures of young people who get caught up in the criminal system for cannabis use.

“It was right then [in 2003] to ensure that people who use cannabis infrequently – once, twice or even 10 times, as Mr McGowan put it – did not get a criminal record, and it is still right now,” he said.

“The question remaining is: when is this going to happen?  It was right in 2003; it is right in 2022.”

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Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

Photo: Brian Walker (Facebook)

All the more reason.