Australians are more accepting of cannabis, with nearly 8 out of 10 Australians supporting nationwide decriminalisation.
It’s one of several findings published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in its latest report into the nation’s attitudes and perceptions towards drugs.
The report charts the changing nature of views on drug use, reporting public opinion towards alcohol, drugs, cannabis and other illicit substances.
Cannabis support up, tobacco approval down
The report, which covers data obtained in 2019, finds 78% of Australians support cannabis decriminalisation (up from 66% in 2010).
The same number of people said they wouldn’t use cannabis if it were legalised. Legalisation carries the support of 41% of people (up from 25%).
Decriminalisation is in place to varying extents across Australia’s states and territories, but only the Australian Capital Territory has legalised it in specific circumstances.
Cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug in Australia, with more than 1 in 10 Australians using the substance in a 12 month period, and more than a third having used it at some point in their lifetime.
There were decreases in the number of people who believe cannabis possession should be a criminal offence (22% down from 34%) and who support higher penalties (44% down from 60%).
But just as cannabis has seen a softening in public support, tobacco’s popularity continues to decrease. More than 4 in 5 Australians support both stricter penalties and enforcement for sale or supply to children. Over two thirds of people also want to see the use of e-cigarettes have similar restrictions to traditional tobacco products, including restrictions in public places.
There’s also been a slight decline in support for increased tax on tobacco to pay for education or treatment programs, restrictions on retail sale and retail licensing schemes.
Prevention better than cure: Aussies support education on drug use, but unsupportive of illicits other than pot
Australians were generally more supportive of investment in education and treatment programs to reduce all types of substance use, as opposed to law enforcement.
The exception is illicit drugs other than pot. While more Australians support education programs, they were also more likely to favour legal action over treatment support when it came to such substances as cocaine and heroin.
Fewer than 1 in 10 Australians supported the legalisation of cocaine (8% support, up from 6.3%), ecstasy (9.5% up from 6.8%), heroin (5.6%) and methamphetamines (4.6%).
The AIHW has prepared an online data map for the public to track perceptions of their community towards alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. You can view it here.