Legalise Marijuana Party withdraws Victorian election application as others take up the cause

Party’s application for registration ahead of November poll was objected to by Legalise Cannabis Victoria

The Legalise Marijuana party has withdrawn its application to register for the Victorian state election a day before it was due to answer questions about its legitimacy, as several other political parties seek to form a platform on the issue.

The party last month sought registration with the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), though their application was objected by Legalise Cannabis Victoria, who argued it was an “egregious attempt” to siphon votes away from their existing party.

Guardian Australia has not been able to contact the Legalise Marijuana party.

In its application to the VEC, the Legalise Marijuana party lists a Gurmeet Kaur as its secretary and a Reservoir residential property as its address.

The property is currently vacant and listed for private sale – which has raised questions from Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s secretary, Craig Ellis.

The Legalise Marijuana party had until Thursday to respond to Ellis’ objections but instead withdrew its application, the VEC confirmed on Wednesday.

Ellis described the withdrawal as a “welcome development”, allowing his party to focus on its campaign to legalise and regulate cannabis, similarly to alcohol and tobacco.

“Unfortunately, though, we won’t get to know who the real people behind it are, they have decided to pull the pin rather than respond to our objection,” Ellis told Guardian Australia.

The federal Greens are also ramping up their efforts to legalise cannabis ahead of a planned private member’s bill to be introduced next year. The Victorian Greens are supportive of a national scheme to legalise recreational cannabis for adult use.

Ellis said it is “all but inevitable” cannabis will become legal in Victoria, given it was the first Australian state in to legalise access to medicinal cannabis in 2016.

“We’ve seen this happen in jurisdictions all over the world: it starts off with a tight medicinal cannabis regime, more and more people get prescriptions and then the next natural step is a recreational adult use market,” he said.

It comes as 15 organisations from the health, Indigenous, legal and youth sectors wrote an open letter to the premier, Daniel Andrews, urging him to commit to decriminalising cannabis ahead of the November election.

The letter was on Wednesday handed to Reason party leader, Fiona Patten, who has also put legalising cannabis at the top of her political agenda if re-elected in November.

Earlier this year, she managed to secure a commitment from the government to trial the decriminalisation of the possession and use of small quantities of drugs.

“More young people in Victoria use cannabis than use tobacco, so clearly the current prohibition laws are not working,” Patten said.

“We should do something else. As a progressive state, it behooves us to listen to the experts and decriminalise cannabis.”

She said decriminalisation of the drug would prevent hundreds of young people entering the justice system each year.

Sam Kidd, from drug law reform group Unharm, said since Andrews became premier, Victorian police have arrested more than 50,000 people for using cannabis, with Aboriginal people, people of colour, young people and people experiencing homelessness “disproportionately targeted”.

“Our message is clear and unequivocal. Decriminalising cannabis is the right thing to do. It will make Victoria fairer, more just and better for everybody,” Kidd said, pointing to the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which found 77% of Victorians supported legalisation.

A parliamentary inquiry in August last year recommended the government consider legalising cannabis for adult personal use, under a similar model to that used in the ACT, where people are allowed to possess, use and supply small quantities of cannabis, as well as to cultivate two plants per person at home.

The government failed to respond to the inquiry within the parliament’s six-month deadline, though the premier at the time said he had “no intention” of legalising the drug.

Asked again on Wednesday, Andrews said his position on the issue had not changed.


Benita Kolovos

The GuardianTramp

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