A reasonably positive piece about the rise and rise of the cannabis party in Australia.
Eyeing a seat in NSW’s upper house, Legalise Cannabis is evolving from a stagnant party to one capable of reforming Australia’s marijuana laws.
The Legalise Cannabis Australia Party is shedding its reputation of being a collective of “nutty hippies”, stoners and cannabis convicts. After decades of barely making waves as a federal party, it’s seen a groundswell of support in state elections, scoring a seat in Western Australia and two in Victoria. Now, the NSW party is on track to win an upper house seat.
It has an eclectic mix of members. It’s headquartered in Nimbin, where tourists have to be directed out of the party’s building to buy their black-market marijuana. Its federal president Michael Balderstone is a scraggly-bearded daily pot smoker. Its NSW candidates range from those who advocate for people to grow their own cannabis to “prevent much of the ill health that plagues society today”, to former NSW Police officers.
Legalise Cannabis is a single-issue party, aiming to legalise cannabis, introduce a moratorium on arrests of cannabis consumers, and reform drug driving laws so impairment, not presence, is tested. But for nearly 30 years, it achieved none of its goals.
It was first formed in 1993 when activist Nigel Quinlan legally changed his surname to “Freemarijuana”, and ran for the Senate in Queensland in 1996. He’s since reverted to his original name. The party he founded became the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party in 2008 and rebranded to become Legalise Cannabis in 2021.
Years of failure have jaded Quinlan, and he’s not hopeful the party will achieve anything even now – especially in Queensland. “Australia is a tiny little vacuum … of prohibitionists,” he said. “I wish legalisation was going to happen, but it’s not.”
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