OPINION: Is this the start of the legalisation of cannabis in Australia?
Last week, a parliamentary inquiry in New South Wales recommended the government in that state change the law to allow the legal use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The committee included politicians from the Liberals, Nationals, ALP, Greens, and the Shooters and Fishers Party - and the report was unanimously adopted by all members.
Before ganja-lovers get too excited, it is important to point out this was simply a recommendation that is yet to be acted upon, and that NSW is a long way from many of us.
Also, the legal medicinal use of cannabis was quite strictly defined to serious cases such as AIDS sufferers.
Still, there have been a few cases in local courts recently where defendants on cannabis charges have argued their medical need for the drug, and if medicinal marijuana is allowed in NSW it probably won't be long before the Queensland government is asked to consider the same issue.
The question is, if medicinal cannabis was ever allowed in Australia, would general decriminalisation of the drug follow?
You only need to look at the US to see a similar scenario.
California was the first state to legalise the drug for medicinal purposes, and in 2012 Washington became the first state to decriminalise for the drug for recreational purposes.
The arguments against legalisation of cannabis tend to stress the term "gateway drug" - and many a defendant in court has been warned of the progression from cannabis to harder drugs in other offenders.
But the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre estimates more than a third of Australians have tried the drug, while figures for other drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine or methylamphetamine are all below 10%.
It seems a simple exercise in logic to realise the majority of the people who use marijuana don't end up using it as a gateway to more dangerous drugs at all.
Should marijuana be legalised for medicinal use, both medicinal and recreational use or not at all?
This poll ended on 22 May 2013.
Medicinal use - 8%
Medicinal and recreational use - 84%
Not at all - 7%
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
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