Australian Medical Association Opposes Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Bill

The Australian Medical Association says that while it supports certain cannabis decriminalization policies, it is opposing a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis due to the potential for increased “health and social-related harms.”

Full story after the jump.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is opposing a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use citing the potential for increased “health and social-related harms.” In its opposition letter, the organization says that while it supports decriminalization for personal use and raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years-old, it is concerned that “people may use recreational cannabis products to self-medicate when Australia already has an existing, high-quality process for assessing the safety, quality, and efficacy of therapeutic products through the [Therapeutic Goods Administration].” 

“The AMA believes that if cannabis was legalized for recreational purposes, it would indicate to the public that cannabis use is not harmful. However, the AMA recognizes that the current approach to cannabis regulation could be improved. The AMA believes that cannabis use should be treated first and foremost as a health issue instead of a criminal issue. The AMA supports the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s role in assessing the safety, quality, and efficacy of cannabis products for therapeutics purposes.” — AMA Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee – Legalizing Cannabis Bill 2023, Nov. 3, 2023 

The letter notes that “the absolute risk of harms associated with cannabis use is low and those who use cannabis occasionally are unlikely to be affected” but that “there are short- and long-term mental and physical health impacts of using cannabis which can vary depending on the individual’s mood and weight, their method of administration and quantities used.” The AMA also said it is concerned that legalization would “put further pressure on an already strained health system, including further strain on already limited and under-funded mental health and drug rehabilitation services.” 

Cannabis is the most common illicit drug used in the country, with 36% of Australians 14-and-older using cannabis in their lifetime, according to 2019 figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare cited by the AMA. In 2019, 11.6% of Australians said they had consumed cannabis within the previous year. Cannabis is legal for medical purposes in Australia.  

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