Imagine coming home after a hard day’s work, pouring a nice glass of red, rolling a joint and sitting down to a moment of chill in the knowledge that one is well within one’s rights as it is totally legal to do so.
That imaginary moment of wine and weed chill-out got closer to reality when two Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party candidates won their upper house seats in the recent state poll.
The pro-cannabis amongst us now has a couple of yes votes in parliament with the elections of Sophia Moermond in the South West Region and Brian Walker in the East Metropolitan Region.
Left: Sophia Moermond: MLC for South West Region. Credit: Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party. Right: Brian Walker: MLC for East Metropolitan Region. Credit: Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party.
Although there are still countless parliamentary sittings, debates, amendments and such to go before one can indeed light up legally, Ms Moermond believes the legalisation process must begin now.
Moreover, it needs to be done not just for those who enjoy cannabis socially but also the West Australians who require it for medicinal purposes or want to see the hemp industry treated as a crop and not a drug.
Ms Moermond says, “We’re going to have to convince a government that [is] not necessarily on our side that cannabis legalisation across the board is going to be useful,” where authorities can manage the health and safety issues around its usage with appropriate testing and correct distribution.
The party’s got an interesting ally in ex Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan who is in favour of looking at changing the cannabis laws, using decriminalising as a steppingstone to legalising.
Karl O’Callaghan explains the difference between legalising and decriminalising.
He does however believe there is much to be done and the amendments will take some time. “They need to be slow,” he says adding that legal issues aside, research on the impact to our health especially mental health is required.
Health and Community Psychologist Dr Marny Lishman agrees with the requirement for more research; saying without robust guidelines, its effect on mental health is left to the interpretation of the individual health care professional.
Dr Lishman feels that although cannabis maybe less harmful than alcohol and other legal drugs, “the long term impact on the brain needs to be explored more.”
While the issue of mental health necessitates further investigation, cannabis is already being used to treat a number of ailments including multiple sclerosis and epilepsy; and relieve a number of pains such as chronic, neuropathic, cancer and chemotherapy pain.
Yet Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has only given approval for one medicinal cannabis product – Nabiximols, a treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis – for supply in Australia. Leaving over 100,000 Australians obtaining cannabis illegally, according to the Lambert Institute at Sydney University.
The number of people using cannabis in the last decade. (Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.)
Ms Moermond says the legalising of cannabis in WA will also take the criminal element out and replace the back market with a more legitimised means of cultivation and distribution.
Furthermore, the law reform needn’t be a complicated process, exampling the party’s ‘Grape Theory’ as a simple formula to the growing, usage and selling of cannabis.
Party President Leo Treasure explains the ‘Grape Theory’. Listen here.
Former Australian Medical Association WA President Dr Andrew Miller feels it will be a battle saying, in a media conference after the state election, “the politics of Western Australia are that if Mark McGowan doesn’t want it to happen, it isn’t going to happen” adding the Premier has not shown any indication of going down the path.
The fight to legalise cannabis, giving one the right to put one’s feet up and light up has only just begun and the elections of Sophia Moermond and Brian Walker are merely the first of a 15-round parliamentary bout.
As Karl O’Callaghan says, there’ll be no Amsterdam cafes in Perth just yet – in reference to the Dutch city’s famous coffee shops where one can buy and consume cannabis legally.
Coffee and cannabis. Credit: Grenville I Francis.