The Australian experience and opportunities for cannabis law reform

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Australia is often held up as an exemplar of cannabis law reform due to its being one of the first countries to adopt a civil penalty scheme for cannabis cultivation and possession for personal use via the 1987 South Australian Cannabis Expiation Notice Scheme. But the rich trajectory of cannabis law reform since that time remains less well understood. This chapter uses data from legislation, parliamentary Hansard, government inquiries and research to critically analyze the Australian trajectory of cannabis law reforms from 1987 until 2018. It shows that Australia has undergone three waves of cannabis law reform. This includes de jure reforms involving prohibition with civil penalties in four states/territories, de facto reforms involving depenalization (police diversion and cannabis cautioning programs) in seven states/territories and since 2016, the legalization of medical cannabis in all states/territories and the Commonwealth. But it also brings to light other policy developments, including policy contractions and reversals of some models and expansion of others, and a subtler shift in the discourse surrounding cannabis and the role of governments in responding to cannabis in Australia. It concludes by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of three different models of cannabis legalization in the Australian context and implications for future Australian cannabis law reform.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLegalizing Cannabis
    Subtitle of host publicationExperiences, Lessons and Scenarios
    EditorsTom Decorte, Simon Lenton, Chris Wilkins
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis
    ISBN (Print)9781138370906
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Studies in Crime and Society


    • criminal law
    • drug laws
    • drug law reform
    • cannabis policy
    • policing
    • Australia


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