Cannabis legalisation support “at an all-time high”

Cannabis legalisation support “at an all-time high”

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Dr Brian Walker and party colleague Sophia Moermond are trying to legislate for recreational cannabis use.

It was an exceptionally busy day for Western Australia’s Legalise Cannabis Party last Thursday – Serpentine doctor Brian Walker MLC and parliamentary colleague Sophia Moermond tabled not one, but two cannabis bills, and then introduced a motion condemning Rio Tinto’s recent guidance note regarding medicinal cannabis use by its employees.

Following their anticipated attempt to legislate for adult recreational use of cannabis in Western Australia, the pair then tabled a second bill, calling for a referendum on the question.

Dr Walker reiterated his party’s commitment to reform during his second reading speech on the Misuse of Drugs (Lawful Person Use of Cannabis) Amendment Bill 2024.

“Recreational use of cannabis has always been part of our social structure. Over half the population has tried it at some point, and about 10 percent consume it on a regular basis,” he said.

“This bill would allow a person to grow up to six cannabis plants at their place of residence, and to share up to 50 grams of cannabis with another adult, for no economic gain, without an offence being committed.

“The bill contains safeguards to ensure that young people are not adversely affected, and to stop people smoking or vaping cannabis in public spaces. Beyond that though, we’re proposing to treat small amounts of cannabis in the same way that we currently treat beer and tobacco.”

Immediately after Dr Walker resumed his seat, his colleague Sophia Moermond rose to introduce the Legalise Cannabis (Referendum) Bill 2024.

“We don’t necessarily expect the government to come on board with our legalisation plans,” she said.

“But surely we can hope that, if they won’t listen to us, they’ll at least listen to the ordinary people of WA.”

Ms Moermond quoted a number of recent surveys which showed support for cannabis legalisation at an all-time high.

“As many as 80 percent of Australians support a change in the law, according to last year’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey,” she said.

Ms Moermond’s bill would add a referendum question to the ballot at the next state election, scheduled for March 2025, with voters being asked “should cannabis be legalised in Western Australia to allow for home growth and adult personal use?”.

“If the Cook Government believes its prohibitionist approach is the right one, let them put it to the test by asking the voting public,” Ms Moermond said.

Supporting the suggestion, Dr Walker said: “We have nothing to fear from a formal test of public opinion here in WA, but can Labor say the same?”

A government response to both bills is expected in mid-June.

The motion the pair then brought before the Legislative Council on Thursday comes in response to Rio Tinto’s announcement that workers, even those with legal prescriptions for medicinal cannabis, will face disciplinary measures including potential termination of employment if they test positive for THC.

The Legalise Cannabis Party MPS argue that the policy by Rio Tinto is discriminatory and directly impacts individuals who rely on medicinal cannabis as prescribed by medical professionals to manage chronic pain, alleviate symptoms of debilitating illnesses, and improve their overall quality of life.

By penalising these individuals for following legal and legitimate medical advice, the MPs believe that Rio Tinto is not only disregarding the wellbeing of its employees but also perpetuating harmful stigmas surrounding cannabis use.

“It is unconscionable for Rio Tinto to penalise individuals who are using medicinal cannabis under the guidance of a medical professional. This policy not only undermines the rights of employees to access legal medical treatments but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes about cannabis users. We must stand against such discrimination and advocate for policies that prioritise the well-being and dignity of all workers.” Ms Moermond said.

Ms Moermond countered Rio Tinto’s assertion there is no reliable way of testing impairment due to cannabis.

“Alternative tests, such as widely recognised saliva swab tests, offer a more accurate indication of THC levels associated with impairment compared to the urinalysis methods employed by Rio Tinto,” she said.

“It is highly probable that Rio Tinto’s current testing protocol would unjustly exclude nearly all medicinal cannabis patients.”

The Hon Dr. Brian Walker said the motion was a call to arms for other MPs to stand up to Rio Tinto.

“This motion seeks to highlight the importance of implementing fair and inclusive workplace practices that respect the rights and needs of individuals who rely on medicinal cannabis for their health and well-being,” he said.

“We invite fellow members of parliament to support this motion and send a clear message that discrimination against medicinal cannabis users will not be tolerated in Western Australia. We urge the company to reconsider its stance on medicinal cannabis use by its employees.”