By state political reporter Richard Willingham
📷: Sharon McCutcheon
Buying and smoking cannabis would be legal in Victoria within the next two years under an ambitious new policy pitch from the Reason Party.
The plan would boost the state’s coffers by $204 million, according to Victoria’s Parliamentary Budget Office, by reducing the costs of policing and sparking new revenue through sales.
But even if the Reason Party’s bill to legalise recreational cannabis is passed by the Upper House, it remains highly unlikely to be supported by either Labor or the Coalition.
Despite this, the leader of the Reason Party, Fiona Patten, told the ABC that she is planning to introduce new laws next year, and that her push to legalise the drug for recreational use is anything but a stunt.
“This is no pie-in-the-sky campaign promise. I will make this happen,” Ms Patten said.
“Victoria, the most progressive state in the country, is ready for this change.”
Victoria is already the first state in Australia to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis, but only for patients in exceptional circumstances.
Ms Patten’s commitment to legalising recreational cannabis is well-known and her plans come after some legislative success with voluntary euthanasia laws, buffer zones around abortion clinics and a safe injecting room.
However, she is still facing a tough fight to hold her Upper House seat in the Northern Metro region.
The Reason Party’s policy is based on laws in Canada, which has legalised cannabis and has been fully costed.
The Parliamentary Budget Office is projecting that $60 million would come from a reduction in policing and prosecution, and another $144 million will come from a rise in revenue.
Ms Patten is also proposing that a new agency would be established to oversee the legalisation of the drug, including production and licensing, and the state would take a proportion of sales.
The drug would go on sale to adults on January 1, 2020.
“I have proved that I can work across party lines on getting issues actioned that others may have thought impossible to achieve,” she said.
“Legalising cannabis makes sense, it’s a no brainer to most people. Across the world communities are making this change and it is time for Victoria to yet again lead the way in this historic reform.”