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Legalising cannabis could make WA almost $250 million per year, according to UWA report – ABC News

Legalising cannabis in Western Australia could see the state’s fortunes boosted by $243.5 million per year in the first five years, according to a report from the University of Western Australia.    

Key points:

The report quantified the revenue the state could make through legalising cannabis. It considered data about the form and frequency of cannabis use, as well as the estimated cost of enforcing current laws that prohibit cannabis use.

Brian Walker, leader of the Legalise Cannabis WA Party which commissioned the report, said the research was “groundbreaking”.

“We wanted to find out the actual truth on this, and we commissioned this not expecting any particular result,” Dr Walker told Nadia Mitsopoulos on ABC Radio Perth.

“This is the first time anyone has shown their working, and set out exactly how their figures were arrived at.

“On the spending side we’ve got stuff like your police — for chasing a cannabis crime — the courts and the corrective services for managing that. Altogether, that’s about $100 million per year.”

The data for the report — An Economic Case to Legalise Cannabis in Western Australia — came from a wide range of sources including the Australian National Drug Strategy Survey, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW.

Economic benefit of legalising cannabis in WA, according to a report out of UWA

Estimated income from taxes

CBD stats

The report, which looked at projected figures for a five-year period after legislation, found a moderate 25 per cent tax on adult-use recreational cannabis would generate approximately $137 million of direct tax revenue in WA based on annual sales of “around $686 million”.

Licensing fees for businesses intending to sell cannabis would generate an estimated $6.5 million for the economy each year.

In 2020, 43,670 kilograms of illicit cannabis was bought in WA at a total price of $778 million.

But Dr Walker said legalising cannabis would make it more affordable to buy, as sellers wouldn’t need to add a “risk premium”.

“When you engage in something illegal, there’s a price to be paid,” Dr Walker said.

“How do you account for the losses if you’ve been raided and you’ve lost a million dollars in crop?

“That all has a cost associated with it. Once you legalise, that risk premium falls away.”

Cannabis safer than alcohol, GP says

The data showed 11 per cent of WA’s population (243,000 people) had used cannabis in the past 12 months, and 37 per cent (790,000 people) had used cannabis at least once before.

Dr Walker, who is a long-time campaigner for cannabis reform and is a practising GP in the Perth hills, said he was not concerned about the number of cannabis users.

“There are zero deaths due to cannabis alone,” he said.

“Look at four substances which are commonly used: tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and sugar. They’re all addictive to some degree. But the safest is actually cannabis.”

Earlier this year, Dr Walker tabled a paper in parliament that found cannabis was less likely to cause psychosis than alcohol and tobacco.

“Alcohol was the most risky when it comes to developing psychosis, and yet it’s freely obtained,” he said.

“If you give [cannabis] to young people with growing brains, you’re more liable to have psychosis, but the same is true of alcohol.”

Dr Walker said cannabis was also less likely to cause domestic violence than alcohol.

“You’re much more likely to be aggressive and violent as a result of alcohol use,” he said.

Medicinal cannabis has been legal in WA since 2016, but is very strictly regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Minimising risk of harm

Longtime youth worker and priest George Davies said he believed illicit cannabis was more damaging “because you don’t know what it’s cut with”.

“It also means young people who may be at risk psychologically are underground and not being open about their issues,” Reverend Davies said.

Dr Walker said cannabis needed to be regulated, to ensure it was used safely and not by under-aged people.

“You can misuse cannabis, absolutely you can,” he said.

“You can’t regulate it unless you legalise it.”

A spokesperson for the McGowan government said it remained committed to ensuring there was access to medicinal cannabis for people with medical needs.

“This includes enabling general practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients,” the spokesperson said.

“The McGowan government has no plans to legalise recreational cannabis.”


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