We Asked Non-Weed Smokers Why They Voted For The Legalise Cannabis Party
"One of their key policies is expunging all past cannabis-related convictions."
In a move that most political experts didn’t see coming, the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party has seen a huge increase in votes in the 2022 federal election, and even looked promising to win a Senate seat over the likes of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON) at one stage. But what exactly does this mean?
As of Monday — with 34 percent of votes counted in Queensland — the AEC reported a staggering 75,599 votes for the Legalise Cannabis Australia party. To put that into context for you, PHON recorded 87,613 in the same state at the same time. So regardless of whether or not the party secures the Senate seat — and it’s not looking likely — we simply cannot deny the fact that so many Australians, particularly in the formerly conservative state of Queensland, voted for the party.
The topic was discussed on ABC’s The Drum on Wednesday night, where host Ellen Fanning asserted that the vote was probably because of the party’s positioning on the left side of the ballot paper.
“Look I don’t know, that could be the case but Ellen you’re from Queensland, I think you’ve got some explaining to do. I thought Queensland was a conservative place,” News Corp’s Samantha Maiden replied. “They’ve elected a whole bunch of Greens in the House of Representatives, they voted for a pot-smoking party, what the hell is going on up there. Somebody needs to explain it, has Byron Bay escaped the perimeter?”
The topic was discussed at length on the programme, with a variety of answers for the high (mind the pun) voter turnout proposed.
“Do you think people are taking the Mickey?” asked Fanning. “It’s not like people are saying the Ice party or the Heroin party.”
It is, however, important to note that there is evidence to support the idea that decriminalising hard drugs such as ice and heroin can actually have widespread positive impacts on society, which Fanning neglected to mention in her throwaway comment.
Economist and former Labor Party politician Craig Emerson went so far as to assert it was simply an “up yours” vote, or a protest vote against the major parties.
“I think this is the up yours vote, there’s always an up yours vote,” said Craig.
Why Cannabis Should Be Legalised
The obvious reason that all of the pundits on The Drum forgot to mention is that people genuinely want cannabis to be legalised — both medicinally and recreationally — in Australia.
From its genuine medical use as a pain killer that can be more effective than opioids, to the evidence to support it is far less dangerous than the currently legal alcohol and tobacco products any adult can purchase from a supermarket or bottle shop, there are a plethora of genuine reasons to legalise the drug. Not to mention, the fact that cannabis-related law enforcement costs the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and the fact that cannabis would be a tax revenue dream for the Australian economy.
And, of course, we cannot ignore the fact that Indigenous Australians are disproportionately more likely to be charged with cannabis-related crimes than white Australians, who are offered warnings nearly half of the time.
If you’re reading Junkee, I would hazard a guess that you’re already well aware of the above reasons why cannabis should be legalised both medicinally and recreationally in Australia, but perhaps a more important question to ask is why are people finally voting for it?
Why Did People Vote For The Legalise Cannabis Party?
If you personally consume cannabis for medicinal or recreational reasons, it’s easy to see why you may vote for the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party, but what about all of the voters who don’t personally partake? Was it a donkey vote? Were they the lesser of two evils? Junkee asked the question and this is what we found out.
As was to be expected, a small amount of people voted for the party because they felt it was simply the lesser of two evils.
“I generally put the bigots and racists at the bottom, and have the inclusive and least offensive parties at the top. Single issue parties (like cannabis) go below more well-rounded candidates, but there are very few of those,” one person told Junkee.
“I voted for the legalise weed party like 5th or 6th in the senate cause they seemed the last of a few Center/left parties on the list. I didn’t do my homework and couldn’t trust any of the parties with ‘national’, ‘freedom’, ect,” another added.
Other popular answers that should come as no surprise include the obvious medical benefits (which are hardly accessible currently because medicinal cannabis is difficult to obtain a permit for and is prohibitively expensive) and the tax revenue Australia could make from legalisation.
“In confidence, I gave them a high preference above the line because I think taxing it would be a good revenue source and I’d rather see it regulated like alcohol. I’d also like to see properly calibrated testing for drivers with known ‘limits’ rather than just testing for trace amounts of THC (that might last days beyond intoxication),” one person told Junkee.
“I didn’t vote for Legalise Cannabis as a primary but I did preference them pretty high (BTL vote). I’ve never smoked weed in my life but I think that the medical benefits for chronic pain, etc have been well documented. Also the government can make some good cash from a regulated weed market that can be funnelled into important essential services (or at least the budget bottom line),” another added.
Some voters also told Junkee that although they don’t smoke weed, they may partake if it were legal.
“Cuz I want to smoke weed! And doing something very illegal makes me scared,” one person told Junkee.
Another added that they would hope the decriminalisation of cannabis would lead to the decriminalisation of other drugs (such as cocaine, MDMA and other party drugs that are hugely common in society).
“I don’t smoke weed but I voted the Cannabis party because I figured they’d decriminalise the drugs I do,” an anonymous person told Junkee.
Obviously, many also pointed out the hypocrisy of alcohol and tobacco being legal, while cannabis is not. But perhaps the most interesting answer among non-weed smokers, and a really important reason for legalisation is the lifelong consequences people face if they are charged with cannabis possession.
“On voting for the Legalise Cannabis Party – don’t smoke but very keen for drug reform. It should be a public health issue, not criminalised. Would love to see all drugs legalised but gotta start somewhere. Most drug policy unfairly targets PoC, and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Also there’s so much money to be made (if legalised) that can go into education and addiction support for people who need it. Plus illegal drug use funds crime. The only way to regulate a drug is to legalise it! I Work in health care so very passionate about drug reform,” one person told Junkee.
“My partner who is a social worker and I preferenced them high because up here in Far North Queensland young [predominantly] Aboriginal people are getting busted constantly. Once they have a record they can’t get many jobs, reinforcing the poverty trap,” a second person told Junkee.
“One of their key policies is expunging all past cannabis-related convictions. This is important to me because my younger brother has studied to be a pharmacist but won’t be able to practice in many parts of the industry due to a trivial cannabis charge,” another added.
Obviously, this is a small portion of the voting population, but it goes to show that there truly is a plethora of genuine reasons to legalise cannabis in Australia, and for the most part, that is why Australians are voting for the parties with clear objectives to tackle this issue.
Lavender Baj is Junkee’s senior reporter focusing on news and politics. Follow her on Twitter.