A proposed federal Bill that would legalise cannabis for adult recreational use in Australia must be scrapped, according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
The AMA has set out its opposition to the Bill in its submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, saying there were many short-term and long-term risks posed by recreational cannabis.
The Bill was introduced by Greens Senator David Shoebridge in August.
AMA president Professor Steve Robson said cannabis use could have a range of negative health impacts and any increase in use could impact Australia's health system.
"Legalising cannabis for recreational purposes sends the wrong signal to the public and especially to young Australians, that cannabis use is not harmful," Professor Robson said.
"We know from a recent systematic review that there was an increase in acute cannabis poisoning post-legalisation in the US, Canada, and Thailand.
"We also know there are already many Australians suffering detrimental health outcomes caused by recreational cannabis use.
"We see poor mental health outcomes from cannabis use including anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, memory loss and an increased incidence of schizophrenia," he said.
"Cannabis use can lead to physical ill-health conditions such as bronchitis or cancer, cardiovascular system damage and impaired reaction time and brain function."
The AMA is also concerned that people may use recreational cannabis products to self-medicate and urges patients to speak to their doctor to discuss better treatment options.
"The evidence base for the use of medicinal cannabis products is limited," Professor Robson said.
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The submission says while cannabis use should not be legalised, the current approach to cannabis regulation could be improved.
"First and foremost, cannabis use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue," Professor Robson said.
"Criminal penalties for personal cannabis use can add to potential health and other risks to which cannabis users are exposed.
"Harm reduction measures should instead be used such as court orders requiring counselling and education, or attendance at 'drug courts' which divert users from the criminal justice system into treatment".
The Bill has received 25 public submissions and the report from the inquiry is scheduled to be tabled by May 2024.