What Do Australians Think About Cannabis?

The year 2020 was a rollercoaster for the cannabis business in Australia, with ACT cannabis's laws taking place, TGA approving over-the-counter CBD, and of course, COVID-19.

Despite the ongoing medical marijuana market in Australia and the global advances towards medical and recreational legalization, there are a lot of uncertainties about the benefits of cannabis legalization among Australians.

A recently published research article by The University of Queensland and University of New South Wales addressed the reasons Australians support cannabis legalization, whether that be medical or recreational.

The study used logistic regression models, statistical tools, and data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which included 21,729 participants aged 18 years and above who responded to the survey.

As a growing number of Australians are in favor of legalizing medical and recreational cannabis use, the paper aimed to explore the personal characteristics of those who supported each of these policies in Australia. 

According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, in 2010 Australian support for the legalization of medical cannabis had been stable since the 2000s with 68.5–69% of persons supporting legalization, despite substantial international policy changes over the period.

But in 2016, the agency found an increase in support for legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis.

This shift in attitude coincided with the Australian Federal and state governments' legalized access to medicinal cannabis in the same year, although this statement is not true for the legalization of recreational cannabis use, something that most Australians continue to oppose, according to data from the same agency.

The increase in cannabis research, media coverage, and the innumerous positive cases reported on the medical uses of cannabis instigated the awareness and portrayed cannabis in a more favorable position as a medicine than a harmful drug.

The usage of cannabis for chronic pain, mood disorders, cancer treatment, and the relief of chemotherapy side-effects are now well accepted, not only because of scientific information support but also by a number of reported stories where the health benefits of cannabis are perceived.

The study showed that 77% and of participants supported the legalization of medical use cannabis and 40% supported also recreational cannabis. People of an older age were more likely to support medical cannabis legalization while those who supported the legalization of recreational cannabis use were the young population.

Another interesting fact was that the medical cannabis supporters were more likely to report chronic pain while recreational cannabis supporters were more likely to suffer a high level of psychological distress.

Experience with cannabis use was strongly associated with supportive attitudes, with recent cannabis users almost 14 times more likely to support the legalization of medical and 34 times more likely to support recreational cannabis use.

In summary, the majority of Australians approve the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes, but most remain cautious about legalizing recreational cannabis use.

Official approval of medical cannabis use from the Government and research endorsement can be perceived as a validation of marijuana medical value, reducing bias and prejudgment of cannabis use.

In the United States, young adults from states that have implemented medical cannabis laws are more likely to perceive the harmfulness of cannabis as a no or low-risk drug-treatment than residents of states without medical cannabis laws.

On the other hand, again, the same statement may not be true for recreational purposes as the passage of medical cannabis laws does not appear to have affected the perceived wrongfulness of recreational cannabis use.

As we face a world-wide wave of legalization surrounding medical marijuana use, marijuana-related attitudes/perceptions by the public will likely continue to shift.

At the same time, it's important that the physical and psychological effects of marijuana use are always carefully investigated and clearly conveyed and communicated to the public.

Check the full article here.

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Camila Ferezin
Camila Ferezin

Camila Ferezin is a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology. She holds a BA in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biochemistry and has been working with Research and Development, both in the Academic environment and Pharma company. She is passionate about Science and loves to talk about Chemistry, Biology and Physics.