Cannabis, CANZUK and the Commonwealth: Where is it Legal, Where Can You Toke Up?
Commonwealth nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain share a common political and cultural heritage. Now, a non-profit organization by the name of CANZUK, has attempted to solidify this close link by means of law.
Among other things, the organization strives for much greater freedom of work, travel, and residency across these four countries. With their petition already at over 235000 signatures as I live and breathe and type this article, now is as good a time as any to study cannabis laws across the CANZUK countries and what stoners need to know before they spark up in these four nations.
If you’re planning a trip down under and happen to be a cannabis user, the future is bright. While recreational cannabis is currently illegal, as of February 24, 2016, medicinal marijuana is permitted. Surely future prospects for Aussie cannabis enthusiast are positive as a 2007 government survey reported that one in three Australians over the age of 14 had used cannabis at some time in their life.
Even more promising is that one in ten surveyed had smoked weed in the past 12 months.
Surely one would expect all is positive in the land down under. With increasingly liberal attitudes towards cannabis worldwide and a plethora of scientific evidence emerging that solidifies the health benefits of the plant, it might seem like the fight for cannabis rights has already been won.
But the news is not all good. The political climate in Australia might not be ready for the hemp plant to flower just yet.
A South Australian bill was recently proposed that plans to introduce 2-year jail sentences for possession of marijuana. While the success of the bill looks doubtful, the fact that such draconian ideas of drug enforcement are on the agenda is not a good sign. In fact, the Turnbull government has made its stance quite clear on what it thinks of Cannabis. Health Minister Greg Hunt has referred to Marijuana as a gateway to other drugs like crystal meth.
Such statements fly in the face of scientific fact and reflect a government that is far too conservative to consider the prospects of legal weed. But farther north, prospects seem a little less bleak.
Canada is nothing short of the model to adopt for the other three commonwealth siblings. Medical marijuana has been legal since July 2001 and the Trudeau government has set legalization date at October 17, 2018. Bill C-46 will permit Canadians to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and up to four plants. This landmark decision will make it the first G8 nation to do so.
But the Federal government’s legalization plan is not without its flaws particularly on the enforcement side of things. Notably, drivers convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana could face as much as 10 years in prison…. that’s double the amount of time faced by drunk drivers.
For Cannabis rights, Great Britain is arguably the most regressive of the CANZUK countries. As a class B drug in the UK, Cannabis is categorized alongside such dangerous substances as barbiturates, ketamine, and various amphetamines. Possession of it could yield as many as 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
There is a reason to be optimistic though, as the floodgates to full legalization may have been recently opened. Great Britain recently passed legislation to allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. Notions of recreational weed have a powerful opponent however in Home Secretary Sajid Javid. The nation’s highest medical officer has shut down notions that this landmark decision could be a stepping stone for further cannabis rights
Public opinion seems to be in favor of legalization by a slight margin. In a 2014 UK survey, 52% of those polled were in favor of legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana.
Until then, however, it appears New Zealand pot smokers could still face legal repercussions for their recreational activities. The severity of these charges sometimes lies on the arbitrary lines of how cannabis users choose to use. Possession for cannabis itself is relatively minor, resulting in a $500 fine and no more than 3 months of jail time. Cultivation is a different tale however as growers could face as long as a 7-year imprisonment, while manufacturers of hashish and oils face double that.
There seems to be a fair bit of popular demand for greater unity between the Commonwealth nations. While culturally similar, and sharing a common heritage, these four nations could not be more dissimilar in their government’s stance on the legality of Cannabis. Perhaps greater unity could bring about some sort of consistency for how the plant is regarded and classified legally… but only time will tell.