Pot Party Sweeps Australian Election

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Pauline Hanson may lose her senate seat in Queensland as the state votes green
One Nation is just ahead of Legalise Cannabis Australia in the QLD senate race

A party that wants to legalise marijuana has recorded more than 244,519 votes across Australia and could even push Pauline Hanson out of Parliament.

The One Nation leader has her nose in front of Legalise Cannabis Australia candidate Bernard Bradley in the race of Queensland’s sixth Senate seat – with Ms Hanson ahead with 0.5431 of a quota compared to Mr Bradley’s 0.4643.

But Ms Hanson could still lose her position if votes for the micro-party continue to flood into the tally room and on preference flows.

As the name suggests, the little known party seeks to legalise the drug in Australia. It has seen a 4.9 per cent positive swing since last election and 6.7 per cent of the total vote.

The candidate on the cusp of breaking into the Senate, Mr Bradley, 52, is a criminal defence lawyer from Noosa who said he was ‘fed up’ with seeing drug related charges.

‘It’s time to change these outdated laws and have a uniform approach that treats adults like adults, and in some instances, would be life-changing,’ he said.

‘It’s ridiculous that the laws are inconsistent around the country and in our national capital, it’s perfectly okay to grow a couple of cannabis plants in your yard but in Queensland you can be charged with a criminal offence for the same thing.’

Mr Bradley said he didn’t want a ‘free for all’ but that current laws were a waste of resources.

‘There are numerous examples around the world where cannabis has been legalised and sky hasn’t fallen in.’

‘Cannabis was actually legal everywhere in Australia until 1957 when we decided to jump on the USA bandwagon and ban it.

‘It’s time to change these outdated laws and have a uniform approach that treats adults like adults, and in some instances, would be life-changing.’

Mr Bradley told Daily Mail Australia he would largely act as an independent on other issues.

Ms Hanson’s One Nation has suffered a 2.5 percent swing against her in Queensland and won just 7.8 percent of the Senate vote so far.

Ms Hanson is still likely to accrue preferences from the unlikely-to-be elected Liberal Democrats and United Australia parties.

Despite campaigning heavily, splashing millions in the electoral lead-up and protesting vaccine mandates and coronavirus safety measures, Clive Palmer and Ms Hanson’s conservative fringe parties failed to make a massive mark on the election this year.

One Nation might only pick up a single seat in the Senate between the two most likely candidates, Ms Hanson and Jennifer Game in South Australia.

The United Australia Party could win one seat in Victoria where extended Covid-19 lockdowns hit the hardest.

Even in Victoria, Legalise Cannabis Australia trails closely behind the UAP’s Ralph Babet, and ahead of One Nation.

The surprising success of Legalise Cannabis Australia party could be the early signs of a country embracing more progressive values when it comes to drug-taking.

RMIT criminal law lecturer and expert consultant to the drug and alcohol sector Jarryd Bartle said decriminalising the drug in Australia was just a matter of time.

‘I think the full legalisation of cannabis is likely to occur in at least one Australian state within the next five years or so.

‘Homegrown cannabis is already legal in the ACT, I can see that gradually evolving into a commercial sale model.

‘The key will be looking at the success of countries such as Canada, which have taken a ‘keep drugs boring’ approach, focusing more on regulatory control than a libertarian argument for personal choice.’

‘The vote for Legalise Cannabis Australia indicates that this is a core issue for some voters.

‘This is consistent with national polls, but a lesson from the NZ cannabis referendum is that support can shift drastically once legalisation becomes a ‘live’ issue.’

Meanwhile, Queensland’s Senate representation is already expected to change – with the Greens reporting record totals.

Anti-abortion activist and LNP senator Amanda Stoker failed to win re-election and Penny Allman-Payne for the Greens is likely to pick up a seat.

Both Liberal senator James McGrath and and the Nationals’ Matt Canavan were re-elected in Queensland.

Murray Watt has been re-elected for the Labor party and Anthony Chrisholm is likely to join him.

The Legalise Cannabis Australia party will now be eligible for Australian Electoral Commission funding now they have surpassed four per cent of the first preference vote.

But Adjunct professor of politics at Griffith University Anne Tiernan said she believed the party’s level of first preferences more reflects a disillusioned electorate picking anything but the major parties.

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(It’s) just indicative of how the major party vote splintered and fragmented across the state and across the nation,’ she told the ABC.

Still she was surprised by their success so far across the states. The party has been beating both One Nation and the UAP in different states and is the fourth most voted for party in Western Australia after the Greens.

In recent years calls have loudened for cannabis to be legalised in Australia in a move that would follow Canada, a suite of European countries and 18 states in America including Colorado, Washington D.C, New York and California.

A 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealed a significant minority – over 40 per cent of Australians – believe cannabis should be legalised for personal use.

That compared with 2013 when 25.5 per cent of citizens backed the move.

The number of people who said they had used cannabis at some point in their lives has seen an increase from 33.5 per cent in 2001 to 38.1 per cent in 2019.

Expert Jarryd Bartle said, however, rises in public support don’t necessarily translate to big support gains when real legislation is put in motion.

‘Support for the legalisation of recreational cannabis has risen dramatically over the last few decades.

‘In 2007, only 21% of Australians supported legalisation but in 2019 support jumped to 41% in the National Drug Household Survey.

‘The Legalise Cannabis Australia party received a strong vote over the weekend but it doesn’t mean Australians are ready for legal recreational cannabis.

‘Asking voters if they support a policy proposal in the abstract can often be a poor read of the level of support it would receive once it becomes a hot button political issue.

‘We saw this play out in the 2020 New Zealand cannabis referendum, where 51% of voters rejected the legalisation of cannabis, despite early opinion polling indicating strong support.

‘One of the big lessons from the last few decades of cannabis law reform is that voters prefer a gradual and measured approach to drug liberalisation.’