Upper house debates cannabis reforms
13 December 2023
The Legislative Council debated measures during the final sitting week of the year that would allow adults to legally possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use.
The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Regulation of Personal Adult Use of Cannabis) Bill 2023 was introduced as a private member's bill by South-Eastern Metropolitan MP Rachel Payne.
(If a bill is brought by a government minister it is known as a government bill. If a bill is brought by a member other than a minister is it known as a private member’s bill. While these may be debated they typically do not pass without also gaining government support).
In her second reading speech she said prohibition had failed to dent either demand or supply of cannabis.
‘There is a safer way of regulating cannabis, which is why leading economies around the world are moving to legalise cannabis consumption – letting adults be adults and grow and consume cannabis in the privacy of their own homes,’ she said.
The bill would allow adult possession of a small quantities of cannabis; allow adults to grow up to six cannabis plants at home; allow the adult consumption of cannabis or THC (but not in a public place) and allow adults to gift a small quantity of cannabis or THC.
“ Leading economies around the world are moving to legalise cannabis consumption – letting adults be adults and grow and consume cannabis in the privacy of their own homes. ”
Rachel Payne, Member for South-Eastern Metropolitan
Minister for Mental Health, Ingrid Stitt, said in her speech that the government would not be supporting the bill, but is open to further ‘discussions with the Legalise Cannabis Victoria Party on this topic and a process that would take the advice of experts and engage with the community’.
‘As a government and particularly for me as the Minister for Mental Health, we must also properly consider the potential risks of changing the legal framework of cannabis use in Victoria. We really need to tread carefully around these issues and ensure that any alteration to the approach does not undermine either our harm reduction endeavours or indeed our vision to make Victorians the most mentally healthy in the country,’ she said.
Member for Southern Metropolitan Georgie Crozier in her speech said the opposition would not be supporting the bill.
“ We really need to tread carefully around these issues and ensure that any alteration to the approach does not undermine either our harm reduction endeavours or indeed our vision to make Victorians the most mentally healthy in the country. ”
Ingrid Stitt, Minister for Mental Health
‘Frankly, it does not really bother me if somebody just goes out and smokes a joint now and again. But I do have concerns about the long-term effects of cannabis use on many, many people, and it has been a concern for me for many years. As we know, some people can manage, but many, many other people cannot,’ she said.
David Limbrick, Member for South-Eastern Metropolitan, said it was ‘absolutely outrageous that in 2023 we are still debating this and still debating whether or not people can choose to consume a natural plant’.
‘No-one disagrees that cannabis causes harm; everyone knows that it causes harm. What we are talking about here is whether prohibition makes that harm worse, and it absolutely does. It gives people a criminal record,’ he said.
“ If we really want to help young people and Indigenous Australians, we should try talking about its harms, we should try investing in diversion programs and we should ensure that anyone who needs assistance and help can safely and easily access it without stigma. ”
Nick McGowan, Member for North-Eastern Metropolitan
A range of speakers raised the fact that First Nations people are more likely to be prosecuted for possessing small amounts of cannabis than non-Aboriginal people.
Nick McGowan, Member for North-Eastern Metropolitan said legalising cannabis use would not help young people or Indigenous Australians.
'Something that will no doubt lead to a further decline in their physical and mental health and lead to an addiction problem. If we really want to help young people and Indigenous Australians, we should try talking about its harms, we should try investing in diversion programs and we should ensure that anyone who needs assistance and help can safely and easily access it without stigma,’ he said.
Aiv Puglielli spoke in support of the bill.
‘More than a third of people over 14 years of age have used cannabis at least once in their life, and out in the community the majority of people agree that possession of cannabis should not be a crime. I am talking about almost 80 per cent of Australians – that is significant,' he said.
Debate on the bill was adjourned until the next day of meeting.
The entire debate is available to be read in Hansard.