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Legalize Cannabis Australia in Surprise Election Surge; Draws Enough Votes to be Senate Deal-Maker

This report from the Guardian Newspaper Australia Josh Taylor and Nick Evershed – Sun 22 May 2022 07.37 BST

Australian legalization pace picks up

In what looks like a surprise success grassroots campaign, Legalise Cannabis Australia has emerged as a vote winner in the Senate, performing strongly in several states and even rivalling One Nation’s vote in Queensland.

The micro party, which as the name suggests, is pushing for marijuana to be legalised, followed up its success in last year’s Western Australian election, where it picked up two upper house seats.

According to the latest Senate results, Legalise Cannabis has picked up between 2% and 7% of the Senate vote in most states and the Northern Territory.

The party has 7.5% of the vote in the NT, 3.9% in Western Australia, 6.7% in Queensland, 3.4% in Victoria and 3% in New South Wales, with 38.6% of the total vote counted nationally as of Sunday midday.

The party recorded just 1.8% of the vote in the ACT, where cannabis possession has already been decriminalised for people aged 18 years and over.

Party wants cannabis treated like alcohol and tobacco

The party was previously known as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (Hemp) party, and had been in politics for close to 30 years. The party is run out of the Hemp Embassy in Nimbin in northern NSW, and runs on a single policy platform: to treat cannabis like tobacco and alcohol.

The party says people should be able to grow as much as they want, but if they want to sell it, they should be licensed and charged fees.

Legalise Cannabis Australia has around 221,000 followers on Facebook, but ran no advertising on either Google or Facebook during the election. This is something the party has said is because the platforms will not allow them to advertise with cannabis in the name of the page.

The party’s name and distinctive cannabis leaf logo may alone have been a significant attractor of votes. In Queensland, where the party has polled highest, it was third on the Senate ballot paper.

For comparison, the party is trailing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation by just 1% in her Queensland stronghold, where she is currently fighting to win the last Senate spot in the state.

Pandemic pushed up cannabis consumption

The success could also be in part due to the pandemic factor. Australians were consuming cannabis in record quantities during the pandemic, according to the latest national wastewater drug monitoring report released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

The report found there was an all-time high average cannabis consumption recorded in August 2021 in NSW, NT, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, with record capital city cannabis consumption in October in Queensland and the ACT.

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