Will Cannabis and CBD Products Be Fully Legalised in Australia?

The discussion of the legalisation of cannabis and CBD products has been a prominent and ongoing topic of interest in Australia for quite some time. The legalisation of cannabis was recently raised in the Australian Parliament in 2023 with the Legalising Cannabis Bill. As attitudes worldwide evolve towards more liberal policies on cannabis, there is a growing curiosity among Australians about the prospects of cannabis and CBD legalisation in their country.

This article delves into the existing legal framework, examines the possible advantages and disadvantages of legalisation, and assesses the probability of cannabis and CBD oil being granted full legal status in Australia.

Current Legal Landscape in Australia

What are the current rules and restrictions on different consumer products made from cannabis?

Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis has been legal for some time. It’s been available for medical purposes since 2016 when it was first legalised, but only for therapeutic purposes via prescription. Legal changes opened access to cannabis-based treatments through a prescription from authorised GPs. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the prescription and distribution of medical cannabis. While this was a significant step forward, access to medical cannabis remains highly controlled and often cumbersome for patients and doctors alike.


CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a non-psychoactive chemical secreted by hemp. In Australia, it’s mainly drawn from industrial hemp varieties. CBD has come to the fore in recent times. In 2021, the TGA down-scheduled low-dose CBD products. They’re now available in dispensaries, pharmacies, and other retail stores, but you need an ID to buy. This means you can acquire them without needing a GP’s prescription. In other words, CBD oil is still restricted but legal.

Recreational Cannabis

Recreational cannabis remains illegal in Australia under federal law, with strict penalties for possession, cultivation, and distribution. However, individual states and territories have varying approaches to enforcement and penalties. For example, in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), personal use and possession of small amounts of cannabis were decriminalised in 2020, marking a significant shift towards more lenient policies.

Global Trends in Legalisation

Australia is not alone in grappling with the issue of cannabis legalisation. Many countries around the world have already made significant strides in legalising cannabis for both medical and recreational use.

North America

In North America, Canada fully legalised cannabis for recreational use in 2018, becoming the second country in the world to do so after Uruguay. Several U.S. states have also legalised recreational cannabis and the trend continues to grow despite federal prohibition.


In Europe, countries like the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal have adopted more tolerant policies towards cannabis use, with varying degrees of legalisation and decriminalisation. Germany is also moving towards full legalisation, and other countries are closely monitoring the outcomes of these policies.

New Zealand

Closer to home, New Zealand held a (failed) 2020 referendum on cannabis legalisation. Although the proposal was narrowly defeated, it sparked widespread debate and demonstrated a significant shift in public opinion towards more progressive cannabis policies.

Why Legalise Cannabis and CBD? Societal Benefits

Economic Benefits

Exploring the legalisation of cannabis and CBD products presents a strong case due to the potential economic benefits. Legal cannabis can create significant tax revenue, open employment prospects, and stimulate economic progress. For instance, Canada’s legal cannabis market generated billions of dollars in revenue and established thousands of job opportunities shortly after legalisation. This has the potential to be a substantial boon for the Australian economy, particularly during the post-COVID-19 recovery phase.

Medical Benefits

The legalisation of cannabis and CBD products represents an enormous opportunity for new, safe, treatment options that target various health conditions. By providing alternative therapies for issues such as chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, and multiple sclerosis, this shift could alleviate the burden on the healthcare system. Numerous trials have backed the therapeutic power of CBD and cannabis remedies for medicine. Full legalisation would enable more comprehensive research, enhanced regulation, and safer access to these life-changing treatments.

Reduction in Crime

Legalising cannabis can lead to a reduction in crime related to the illegal drug trade. It can also free up law enforcement resources to focus on more serious crimes. In jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalised, there has been a noticeable decrease in cannabis-related arrests and prosecutions, leading to cost savings in the criminal justice system.

Social Justice

The prohibition of cannabis has had a more significant impact on marginalised communities, resulting in an increased number of arrests and imprisonment for minor cannabis offences. By legalising cannabis, we can work towards rectifying these social injustices through the removal of past convictions and the establishment of a fairer legal structure, which will promote understanding and advocacy for this issue.

Drawbacks and Risks of Legalisation

Public Health Concerns

Opponents of cannabis legalisation often cite potential public health concerns, such as increased rates of cannabis use, particularly among young people, and the potential for health issues. However, research from regions that have legalised cannabis suggests that these concerns can be managed through regulation and public education.

Regulatory Challenges

Legalising cannabis and CBD products would require the establishment of a comprehensive regulatory framework to ensure product safety, quality, and consistency. This includes setting standards for cultivation, processing, distribution, and sales. Developing and implementing these regulations can be complex and resource-intensive.

Impaired Driving

It is important to note that an additional concern is the potential increase in cases of impaired driving due to the use of cannabis. Cannabis use can negatively impact cognitive and motor abilities, which could lead to an increased risk of accidents. To address this issue, it is vital to take practical measures such as raising public awareness and carrying out roadside tests to detect impairment from cannabis.

Will Australia Legalise Cannabis and CBD?

Public Opinion

Australians are increasingly in favour of cannabis legalisation. According to a 2019 National Household Survey, 41% of Australians support cannabis legalisation, up from 25% in 2013. This shift in public sentiment will likely influence policymakers and drive legislative changes.

Political Will

The Australian political landscape is slowly evolving to reflect changing public attitudes towards cannabis. While there has been resistance for some quarters, several decriminalisation advocacy groups are pushing for reform. The recent decriminalisation of cannabis in the ACT is a significant step in this direction.

Potential Pathways to Legalisation

  1. State-Led Initiatives: State territories could take the lead in decriminalising or legalising cannabis, creating a patchwork of policies via a bottom-up approach that could eventually lead to federal legalisation.
  2. Federal Legislation: A more cohesive approach would involve the federal government passing legislation to legalise cannabis nationwide. This would require significant political will and bipartisan support.

Public Referendum

Another potential pathway is a public referendum on cannabis legalisation, similar to the one held in New Zealand. This would allow Australians to voice their opinion on the matter directly.

The potential economic benefits of cannabis legalisation could also drive legislative changes. The promise of job creation, tax revenue, and economic legalisation is a powerful incentive for lawmakers to consider legalisation.

Future Directions

As we look to the future, several trends will be vital in influencing how legalisation pans out in Australia:

  1. Research and Development: Continued research into the therapeutic benefits and potential risks of cannabis and CBD products will be essential in informing policy decisions and public opinion.
  2. Public Education: Educating the public about the responsible use of cannabis and the differences between medicinal and recreational use will be critical in addressing concerns and misconceptions.
  3. Regulatory Innovations: Developing innovative regulatory approaches that balance safe legalisation and economic growth will be critical to a successful legalisation framework.
  4. International Collaboration: learning from the experiences of other countries that have legalised cannabis can provide valuable insights and best practices.

The future of cannabis and CBD legalisation in Australia largely depends on the progression of political decisions. The focus is on making policies based on solid evidence. Whether it’s driven by economic advantages, considerations of social justice, or the need for legalising medical cannabis, there is unmistakable momentum toward legalisation. The next few years will bring substantial changes in this ever-evolving scenario.


The full legalisation of cannabis and CBD products in Australia appears to be an inevitable step in the country’s evolving approach to drug policy. With increasing public support, economic incentives and a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of legalisation, Australia is poised to follow in the footsteps of other progressive nations. There’s strong potential for full legalisation in the future.

However, the journey towards full legalisation will require careful consideration of potential drawbacks, current regulatory frameworks and ongoing public education to maximise the benefits and minimise risks. As Australia continues to navigate this complex legal area, one thing remains clear: the conversation around cannabis legalisation is far from over, and the future holds exciting possibilities for both advocates and sceptics alike.


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  2. Goods, T. (2022f). Over-the-counter access to low dose cannabidiol. [online] Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Available at: https://www.tga.gov.au/news/media-releases/over-counter-access-low-dose-cannabidiol.
  3. Treasury, A.G.P.S.M.C.M. and (2020). Home. [online] Cannabis. Available at: https://www.act.gov.au/cannabis/home#:~:text=Cannabis%20is%20not%20legal%20in.
  4. Health Canada (2022). Taking stock of progress: Cannabis legalization and regulation in Canada. [online] www.canada.ca. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/engaging-cannabis-legalization-regulation-canada-taking-stock-progress/document.html.
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  7. Australian Journal of General Practice. (2023a). Medical cannabis and driving. [online] Available at: https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2021/june/medical-cannabis-and-driving
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Steve Jacobs Author Headshot

Originally from Byron Bay (Australia), Steve Jacobs is a writer and expert on the world of hemp. His passion for hemp products developed from working with organic hemp cultivators and sustainable skincare brands in Byron. Inspired by these eco-friendly approaches to crafting superb products, Steve realised the opportunity at the intersection of aromatherapy, natural skincare and the magic of hemp. He founded Bondi Hemp to bring this dream to life, bringing rejuvenating hemp extracts, refreshing botanical hemp topicals and revitalising essential oils to everyday Aussies. True to his Byron roots, Steve infuses every drop of his responsibly produced hemp products with the rich terroir of the Byron Region, resulting in unsurpassed quality without harming the earth. Today, Steve continues to write and speak about hemp, skincare, and aromatherapy from his family’s home in Northern NSW.