Australia Just Made a Huge Move on Marijuana

February 10th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Australia became the latest country to join the marijuana legalization movement, on Wednesday, with the introduction of legislation that would allow residents to grow marijuana for medical use. The bill would amend the country's Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 — which strictly prohibits the substance — and has the support of both the Liberal Party and the main opposition party, the Australian Labor Party.

As the U.S. continues to debate its federal marijuana laws, Australia is set to have a national licensing and permit program in effect by March. The proposal wouldn't legalize recreational marijuana (as four states in the U.S. already have), but it would grant patients legal access to the plant for pain management and as a treatment options for other serious health disorders.


"This is an important day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medicinal cannabis products," health minister Sussan Ley said. "For Australia, this is the missing piece in a patient’s journey. Importantly, having a safe, legal, and reliable source of products will ensure medical practitioners are now at the center of the decision making process on whether medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for their patient."

Australia sits in a region of the world that is notorious for its severe, anti-drug policies. The landmark legislation challenges the overall regional precedent set in neighboring countries such as Singapore, where drug offenders have been sentenced to death. Drug offenders were also executed in China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia last year, human rights organization Amnesty International reports.

But Australia is by no means alone in its push for marijuana legalization within the international community. The U.S. still prohibits the substance under federal law, but 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed legalization measures for recreational and medical marijuana. Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, also made headlines last year after he called for nationwide marijuana legalization. The Mexican Supreme Court also ruled last year that individuals should have the right to cultivate marijuana for personal use — but the ruling only applied to four individuals involved in a federal lawsuit.

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"I sincerely hope the Parliament can continue to work together to pass this legislation in a bipartisan fashion as quickly as possible in the interest of Australian patients seeking access to medicinal cannabis," Ley said.

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