A group of Victorian minor parties including the Greens and the Legalise Cannabis Party could hold the balance of power in the state’s upper house if the votes still being counted from Saturday’s election flow in their favour.
The Legalise Cannabis Party’s popularity has been getting much hiiiigher in recent years, so who are they? And what would its wins mean for weed legislation? We can only hope to see people smoking legal fat ones on Swanston Street soon.
As the final votes roll in, Labor is looking likely to pick up 15 seats in the Legislative Council and the Coalition 14. This means the Labor Government will need the support of six other MPs to have the balance of power needed to pass laws.
The Greens hope to win four seats, Legalise Cannabis is eyeing two, the Animal Justice party may get one and the Reason party leader Fiona Patten could win her seat again.
The Legalise Cannabis Party, formerly known as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party (HEMP) was founded in Australia’s unofficial dooby capital of Nimbin, north of Byron Bay, in 1993. It was rebranded in 2020 and has been gaining traction since. It’s a politically progressive party with left-wing policies.
In the 2021 WA state election, Legalise Cannabis won two upper house seats and in the 2022 federal election, it surprised everyone with its relatively large share of the vote. In every state it scored at least 2 per cent of the vote and as much as 7.5 per cent in the Northern Territory.
Legalise Cannabis’ Victorian Western Metropolitan candidate David Ettershank, who is quietly optimistic about the election result in his region, said the party’s rapid rise was evidence that Australians and especially Victorians wanted cannabis legalised.
“This has been a pretty historic election in terms of putting cannabis into the mainstream,” Ettershank told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“We’ve spoken to thousands of people and the thing that amazed me is that there was an enormous number of people who — the people who look like grandparents or people in groomed suits — all had a common view about how stupid this law is.”
Victoria was the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise access to medicinal cannabis in 2014 but only the ACT has decriminalised it for recreational use.
The latest National Durg Strategy Household Survey in 2019 found cannabis was the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia and use was increasing. It found 11.6 per cent of Australians said they partook in the last 12 months.
“That’s what we’re tapping into. It’s not like this is an emerging thing,” Ettershank said.
“We’ve got more than 1 in 10 people telling the government over the phone that [they] used cannabis. It makes me think the real number could be higher.”
But on the flip side, there were 71,151 cannabis arrests in Australia in the same year. 91 per cent of them were for personal consumption.
The Greens is the only other party to have a policy to fully legalise the use of cannabis for adults in Victoria, which they plan to do by 2024. They’ve argued that even just decriminalising it would save the government $250 million on its policing bill in 2023 alone.
95 years ago, Victoria criminalised cannabis. Billions have been spent trying to eradicate it, yet more than one in three of us have tried it. Since then thousands of Victorians have been convicted, fined, jailed. It’s time to legalise it. #legaliseit
— Dr Tim Read MP (@TimRRead) October 9, 2022
But Legalise Cannabis isn’t just pushing for the legal right to recreationally hit a bong. It argues the issue touches many pillars of Australia, including healthcare and climate action.
“We’re a single policy party but I actually say we’re singularly focused,” Legalise Cannabis’ South-Eastern Metropolitan candidate Rachel Payne told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“You can look at cannabis in the space around healthcare, mental health [and] economic benefits.”
Cannabis can be used for pain relief, insomnia relief and anxiety treatment via its non-hallucinogenic CBD compound (as opposed to the buzzy THC compound derived from the plant).
It’s edible too and parts of the plant like hemp seeds are extremely good for you.
Cannabis can also be used to produce a paper that’s *way* cheaper and better for the environment than what we currently have. A cannabis plant only takes a few years to grow, whereas a pine tree takes between 28 and 35 years to mature and also requires huge areas of land to grow.
And cannabis can is a natural and highly effective insecticide, giving it huge agricultural potential.
“This issue crosses class, gender ethnicity, political persuasion,” Ettershank said.
“We’ve got ppl supporting us who are very conservative through to right out there on the left.
“If we get elected, we are politically progressive, sensible and we will come into this with a very clearly defined set of issues around cannabis.”
Ettershank said even if Legalise Cannabis isn’t successful in Victoria, the movement was growing and they have high hopes for the NSW election in March.
“Whatever happens here, I think this is certainly a big springboard and momentum generator.”