The political party Legalise Cannabis Australia made an unexpectedly strong showing in the country’s nationwide election on Saturday, receiving a record number of votes in the Queensland Senate race.
Bernard Bradley, the party’s candidate for the Queensland Senate, is in striking distance of winning the state’s sixth seat in the legislative body. If his campaign is successful, he could take the seat in Parliament now held by Pauline Hanson, the founder of Australia’s right-wing populist One Nation party. Bradley trails Hanson by less than one percent of the vote, according to preliminary ballot tallies released over the weekend.
The Legalise Cannabis Australia party is campaigning on a platform dedicated to ending the prohibition of marijuana. With ballots still being counted, the party’s candidates have received a total of 244,519 votes nationwide, including 74,972 votes for Bradley in Queensland.
Across Australia, the party received 7.5 percent of the vote in the Northern Territory, 3.9 percent in Western Australia, 6.7 percent in Queensland, 3.4 percent in Victoria and three percent in New South Wales, with 38.6 percent of the total vote counted nationally as of midday Sunday,
Candidate ‘Fed Up’ With Drug Charges in Australia
Bradley, the party’s Queensland Senate candidate, is a criminal defense attorney. He said that he is “fed up” with seeing charges for drug-related offenses.
“Cannabis was actually legal everywhere in Australia until 1957 when we decided to jump on the USA bandwagon and ban it,”
Bradley also noted that cannabis reforms have already been enacted in the ACT, which includes the Australian capital of Canberra and the surrounding area.
“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 offense for the same thing.”
The Legalise Cannabis Australia party was formerly known as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (Hemp) party but changed its name last year. The party, which was founded nearly 30 years ago, campaigns on a one-issue platform of regulating cannabis like tobacco and alcohol. Bradley said he would be an independent in other issues facing Parliament if he is elected.
Party president Michael Balderstone has been involved with Legalise Cannabis Australia since it began in the state of New South Wales in the 1990s. During this year’s campaign, the party emphasized the medicinal benefits of cannabis for conditions including chronic pain.
“They mocked us for a long time, you know, for saying cannabis is a medicine – we were ridiculed,”
Anne Tiernan, an adjunct professor of politics at Griffith University in South East Queensland, said she believes the success of the Legalise Australia Party is due to a disillusioned electorate. But she was also surprised at the party’s strong showing at the polls.
“It really begs the question about whether they then want to build a platform and a network – those small parties have often really struggled to do that, so it’s probably a better result than they were expecting, but [it is] just indicative of how the major party vote splintered and fragmented across the state and across the nation,” Tiernan said.
Balderstone said that the goals of the party are now education and addressing the stigma associated with cannabis.
“Our job really is to re-educate people on the truth, and that’s getting out there,” he said.