HOW MUCH WOULD QUEENSLAND BENEFIT BY LEGALISING CANNABIS?
Dr John Jiggens
The legalisation of cannabis is happening world-wide! Canada legalised cannabis in 2018, while eleven US states have also legalised cannabis. In Australia, the ACT legalised cannabis this year. In the US in 2018, the fledging legal cannabis industry employed 82,000 people and paid over a billion dollars in state taxes. According to a recent Queensland Productivity Commission report, legalising cannabis would provide a net benefit to the Queensland economy of about one billion dollars annually.
In their report on Imprisonment and Recidivism, the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC) estimated that Queensland’s imprisonment rate grew at five times the rate of the population over the past decade. Consequently, Queensland’s prisons are overflowing and are operating at 130% capacity. Given the sky-rocketing imprisonment rates, Queensland will need to build two new prisons to house the increasing prison population over the next five years, at an estimated cost of $3.6 billion.
A significant factor in these skyrocketing imprisonment rates is the War on Drugs and the futile police effort to arrest their way out of the problem. There are over twenty-thousand cannabis offences prosecuted in Queensland every year at a cost to the public purse of about $300 million dollars in police, courts and prison time. These prosecutions do far more harm than cannabis, which in contrast does enormous good as an effective medicine for so many illnesses for so many people. The removal of cannabis prohibition would significantly reduce the growing rate of imprisonment.
We should be treating drug abuse as a health problem. Over the last century, from alcohol prohibition in the US in 1919 to 2020, the world failed to learn the lesson that Prohibition doesn’t work, and we are only now slowly awakening from prohibition’s narcotic stupification. Locking people away has a century-long history of failure. It costs $111,000 annually to lock one prisoner away and each of the high security cells we house them in cost $600-$800,000. Locking people up is expensive and is a scandalous waste of money when its main purpose becomes to hide social problems away, not treat them. If you have a drug problem today in Australia, it is far easier to find a drug dealer than to find help.
Statistics from: The Queensland Productivity Commission report on Imprisonment and Recidivism, QPC 2020, https://www.qpc.qld.gov.au/inquiries/imprisonment/
Dr John Jiggens is an independent candidate in the seat of South Brisbane. He is a writer, former academic and a journalist, who was the founding editor of the Westender and The Cane Toad Times and who has been a ZZZ journalist over several decades. His PhD was Marijuana Australiana: Cannabis Use, Popular Culture and the Americanisation of drugs policy in Australia. The Joke, a rewrite of his thesis, will be published shortly.