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Good news from the Land Down Under.
A new survey reveals that more Australians support the regular use of cannabis than tobacco. They also want tougher penalties for those who use tobacco, especially those who supply tobacco to minors.
The information comes from the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) conducted in 2019. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has just released an analysis of the figures. The data, based on a survey of 20,000 people aged 14 and over, showed that for the first time, respondents accepted regular cannabis use more than regular tobacco use, by 20% versus 15%.
The survey shows that while national levels of support are not as high as in Canada (which legalized marijuana nationwide in 2018) and most of the United States, Australians are turning to the idea of legalizing cannabis.
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More Australians support legal cannabis than ever before
The survey contained many firsts for Australia.
- More people supported legal cannabis in 2019 (41%) than in 2010 (25%).
- The latest survey is the first to find more people in favor of legalization than against it (41% versus 37%).
- Fewer people thought cannabis possession should be a criminal offence.
- Fewer people thought the government should increase penalties for selling or supplying cannabis.
Support is higher for the legalization of cannabis in urban areas, following a trend that has occurred around the world. For example, 60% of respondents in Sydney support legalization. That number rose to 57% in Melbourne and 47% in Brisbane.
In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which contains the national capital of Canberra, 66% of the population supports legalization. The ACT decriminalized cannabis in 2020. All Australian states now practice some form of decriminalisation, although they differ on issues such as how much cannabis people can possess.
South Australia led the world when it decriminalized marijuana possession in 1987, focusing on fines rather than arrests. An analysis covering the years 1985 to 1993 found that decriminalization did not significantly increase rates of cannabis use.
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say no to tobacco
As well as accepting regular cannabis use over regular tobacco use, 85% of Australians also want tougher law enforcement against those who supply tobacco to minors. Around 70% also support restricting the use of e-cigarettes in public places.
However, the analysis revealed that respondents were most opposed to raising tobacco taxes to discourage people from smoking or raising tobacco taxes to support health education.
The study found that if cannabis were legalized in Australia, only 9.5% of respondents said they would try it. However, that number has increased since 2010, when just 5.3% said they would try. Again, the numbers varied considerably by location. For example, only 7.5% of people in Tasmania, an island state in Australia located about 240 km south of the continent, want to try cannabis. But in ACT, that number is 11%.
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