Not just another micro party

This week’s SPEAKER’S CORNER is by Legalise Cannabis Western  Australia Party spokesperson Moshe Bernstein. “A historic victory for legal cannabis” argues that his party’s success in winning two seats during the March state election isn’t comparable to microparty vote rorts which have been blamed for undermining democracy. 

IN the recent elections, the Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party made world history by becoming the first, single-issue cannabis party to ever win a seat in a state or national election. LCWA won two seats in the Legislative Council, Sophia Moermond in the South-West and Dr Brian Walker in East Metropolitan.

The historic nature of this victory, however, was eclipsed by criticism of the “group voting ticket”, whereby, through group preferences, micro parties were able to harvest the votes of their opponents eliminated in each round of ballot counting. 

Reform

This criticism, along with ensuant calls for electoral reform, was undoubtedly compounded by the success of the Daylight Savings Party in the Mining and Pastoral Region, where Wilson Tucker secured a seat with only 98 primary votes (0.2 per cent).

Because LCWA and DST similarly owe their electoral wins to the preferencing system, the media tended to conflate the two, despite significant distinctions between them. 

First, as a small party established shortly before the election, LCWA managed to garner more total primary votes than all the other minor parties, surpassing Australian Christians, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Western Australian Party and Liberal Democrats, all of which held seats in the previous Legislative Council.

Furthermore, unlike the daylight savings issue, which failed four referendums, public support for legalising cannabis far exceeds the +2 per cent of the primary vote LCWA’s candidates received. 

According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household survey, a plurality of 41 per cent of Australians supported legalising cannabis with 37 per cent opposed. That percentage of support is only expected to increase.

Recently, Virginia became the 17th US state to legislate the regulated sale, consumption, and cultivation of cannabis. Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, Uruguay, and Georgia and in 2021 is slated for legislation in Israel, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Luxembourg. 

The reason for the clamour to enter the bourgeoning market of legal cannabis is that legalisation is proving successful, with none of the doomsayers’ predictions come to pass.

Back in 2003 WA premier Geoff Gallop’s government decriminalised the possession of up to 30 grams and cultivation of up to two plants. 

With his “Tough on Crime” policy, in 2011 premier Colin Barnett rescinded the law, recriminalising cannabis to have another ‘crime’ to get tough on. 

The current Labor Party’s state platform on decriminalisation, purported to conform with “the provisions of the Gallop government’s Cannabis Control Act 2003”, has stealthily removed the allowance for cultivation from its original. 

Decriminalisation

While the unabridged 2003 decriminalisation model is a negligible first step, it still would not alleviate the concerns of LCWA’s electorate or the plurality of Australians supporting full legalisation.

 • Merely decriminalising cannabis [where you take away the criminal charge but maintain possession as an illegal activity] perpetuates the black market. 

• It fails to harness the entrepreneurship enhanced by a regulated industry. 

• It denies WA’s farmers access to the nascent global cannabis market. 

• It ignores those in need of medicinal cannabis, the current system stymied by the plant’s illegality. 

• It disappoints WA taxpayers, losing out on the multi-million-dollar bonanza of cannabis revenue. 

• It forsakes our children, some of whom might purchase cannabis of unknown potency or harmful additives from unscrupulous street dealers (who do not check IDs as do legal dispensaries). 

• It neglects the environment, since the cultivation of cannabis as biomass crops effectively reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 

• It disregards the social and health services which could be augmented with commercial cannabis proceeds packing the state’s coffers. 

• Finally, decriminalisation falls short of the legal standard established in 2018 by Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional and a violation of human rights, specifically “the right to the free development of personality”.

Only the regulated sale, consumption, and cultivation of cannabis, comparable to the management of alcohol, can expedite all of the above considerations.

While electoral reforms may pose challenges to the LCWA Party, it would be mistaken to presume that its recent historic triumph will be its last. 

Though a new party, only four months old, LCWA is driven by abundant enthusiasm, an unwavering commitment to the justness of its cause, and the assurance of broad public support. 

Ultimately, the Party’s final victory will take place on that very same day when cannabis is at last made legal in Western Australia.

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