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Australian Taxpayers Could See $850 Million Savings Through Cannabis Decriminalization

Australian taxpayers could save $850 million a year if cannabis were decriminalized, according to a new report that was recently published. In addition to saving taxpayers millions of dollars, the country could potentially make billion in revenue through cannabis legalization.

The Need For Cannabis Decriminalization

The report, published by the public health research organization the Penington Institute, found that Australian taxpayers could save $850 million a year through cannabis decriminalization. The study also estimates that decriminalizing cannabis would lead to an increase in tax revenue.

Recreational cannabis use is illegal throughout the country except for the Australian Capital Territory. The savings would come from reduced spending on law enforcement, imprisonment, and court costs. The report shows that from 2015-2016 the country spent $1.7 billion on enforcing cannabis laws. That amount included $25 million on community corrections,$52 million on legal aid and prosecution, 62 million on courts, $475 million on police, and $1.1 billion on imprisonment.

From 2010 to 2011, 702,866 people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses, with 90% of those arrests being personal possession or consumption. Data from more recent years, 2019-2020, shows that 46.1% of all drug arrests were cannabis related. Even with cannabis being illegal in the country, Australians continue to use it in some form, which is evident in the high number of cannabis-related arrests over the years.

Why Should Cannabis Be Legalized?

According to NADK, National Alcohol & Drug Knowledgebase, 32% of Australians who consumed cannabis did it once or twice a year. Approximately 14% consumed it every day. Decriminalization would reduce the number of people arrested for possession or consumption, but cannabis legalization would offer more benefits.

Cannabis legalization would allow the government to regulate its sale, reduce black market activity, generate tax revenue for vital services such as health care and education, reduce overcrowding in prisons by freeing up space for violent offenders, and allow law enforcement agencies to focus on more serious crimes like murder rather than simple possession charges. Greens member, Senator David Shoebridge, announced plans to legalize cannabis in Australia by 2023. They shared that they were working with stakeholders to deliver a bill to parliament that deals with all the concerns surrounding the legalization of cannabis countrywide.

While Cannabis decriminalization would save taxpayers millions, the country could benefit about $1.2 billion from legalizing the plant. It is important to note that medical marijuana has been legal in Australia since October 2016, and the market is growing rapidly. In 2021, the medical marijuana market was estimated to have made $230 million in revenue but accessing medical cannabis remains difficult for many.


While there is a push for legalization from Greens, it is uncertain when lawmakers will pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use in Australia. The data from this report will likely influence lawmakers’ decisions about whether or not to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

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