Pubdate: Mon, 21 Mar 2016
Source: Daily Mercury, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 APN News & Media Ltd


THE average Mackay pot smoker spends $336.61 on an ounce of 
medium-quality marijuana, translating to about $12 a gram when buying in bulk.

For what is ostensibly a wild-growing weed, that is some serious 
money weighing down the pockets of drug dealers.

The Mackay figure comes from a website allowing users to submit their 
pot prices, which are then averaged out and published so crimson-eyed 
travellers know what they can expect.

Submissions have been tendered from towns all over the country.

Australian Federal Police said they were powerless to shut down the website.

"These sites aren't illegal. They're no different to (online black 
market) Silk Road in that accessing them doesn't break the law," a 
spokesman said.

"The Australian Crime Commission actually publishes current street 
prices in the Illicit Drug Data Report every year.

"If someone does believe websites like this are breaking Australian 
law, they can ring the Australian Communications and Media Authority."

With prices so high, it begs the question: would Australia be better 
off legalising recreational marijuana use, regulating the industry 
and taking the money out of drug dealers' hands?


Such a potential honey pot has not escaped our Federal politicians' gaze.

In December, the Parliamentary Budget Office released an estimate of 
how much the government could raise if it applied a 10% GST to 
marijuana products and stopped spending money on law enforcement.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm called for the report after 
claiming $1.5 billion was being spent annually on drug policing.

The PBO found the government would make $650 million in the 2018-19 
fiscal year if legalisation was introduced in July 2017.

It also found increased availability would lead to lower prices and, 
in turn, an increase in the national marijuana consumption from the 
current 333 tonnes per year to 395 tonnes.

That is not to say consumption would remain inflated.

As the Australian Medical Association (NSW) told a NSW parliamentary inquiry:

"Research indicates that the introduction of liberal drug laws may 
result in a slight increase in temporary drug use, but that it is 
unlikely to increase, and may even decrease, drug-related health costs".


Another issue, beyond the potential cash-in-hand benefits, is whether 
Australia even has an appetite for lifting current bans.

Roy Morgan Research has been asking that question for more than a decade.

It released a report in January stating the proportion of the 
population who favoured legalisation grew from 26.8% in 2004 to 31.8% in 2014.

The 65-plus age bracket underwent the largest proportional increase 
in favour of legalisation, from 16.9% to 25.5%.

But it still remained well behind young Australians aged 18 to 24, of 
whom 35.7% favoured lifting prohibition laws.

"However, the current debate is centred on medical use rather than 
personal recreational use, so this casts a different light on the 
issue, and may provide a clue as to why there has been significant 
growth in support for legalisation among Australians aged 50 and 
over," Roy Morgan Research chief executive officer Michele Levine said.

"Of course, it's also worth noting that many Aussies aged 50-plus 
would have been part of the hippy movement in the 1960s and 1970s, 
which had very liberal views on marijuana use."


Last month the Australian Government took a historic step, making it 
legal to grow marijuana (with restrictions) for use in medicine.

Anti-drugs lobby group Drug Free Australia stood fiercely against any 
form of legalisation, medicinal included.

"Drug Free Australia contends that very few of these Australians 
would be able to specify the handful of medical indications 
attributed to cannabis, and would likely disapprove anything which 
would proliferate recreational cannabis use," it told the NSW 
parliamentary inquiry.

"Just one single cannabis plant, harvested up to five times a year, 
can yield 2500 grams of cannabis per year  enough for 8600 
joints  far beyond the needs of any single patient.

"As such, even a single cannabis plant represents trafficable 
quantities of cannabis."

Legalisation could make Australia a lot of money and put drug dealers 
out of work, but many argue the associated risks outweigh the benefits.

Despite shifting views, the majority of Australians, like both major 
political parties, still stand against an out-and-out recreational 
dope revolution.

ARM Newsdesk
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom