Australians' Attitudes Towards Cannabis

This section provides an overview of Australians’ opinions regarding cannabis use and cannabis-related legislation.

It draws on data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). The NDSHS is a triennial general population survey of Australians' awareness, attitudes, and behaviours relating to alcohol and other drug use. It is the best data source available to provide a national population demographic profile of Australians’ attitudes towards cannabis use.

Although the NDSHS does collect data regarding cannabis use from 12 and 13 year olds, only data from respondents aged 14 years and over is presented in the NDSHS report. Secondary analyses of the NDSHS conducted by NCETA were therefore also restricted to those aged 14 years or older.

Do Australians approve or disapprove of cannabis use?

The majority (60%) of the Australian population disapproves of cannabis use.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Data presented here differ slightly from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey report due to different analysis methodologies. The AIHW analysis excluded the “don’t know enough to say” category, thus changing the proportions of the remaining response categories.

Do Australians think that the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should be a criminal offence?

Most Australians (61%) think that the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should not be a criminal offence. Twenty-two percent of the Australian population think that it should be a criminal offence, while 17% are unsure.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Criminal offences vary between each state and territory.

Do Australians in different jurisdictions think that the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should be a criminal offence?

New South Wales (23%) is the state/territory with the highest proportion of Australians who believe the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should be a criminal offence. The state with the highest proportion who believe it should not be a criminal offence is the ACT (66%).

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. Criminal offences vary between each state and territory.

Do Australians support or oppose the personal use of cannabis being made legal?

Forty percent of the Australian population are opposed to the personal use of cannabis being made legal, 33% support legalising the personal use of cannabis, 20% neither support nor oppose it, and 8% don’t know enough to say.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. Criminal offences vary between each state and territory. Data presented here differ slightly from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey report due to different analysis methodologies. The AIHW analysis excluded the “don’t know enough to say” category, thus changing the proportions in the remaining response categories.

Do Australians support or oppose increased penalties for the sale or supply of cannabis?

Almost half (46%) of the Australian population supports increased penalties for the sale or supply of cannabis. A quarter (25%) oppose increased penalties, 21% neither support nor oppose increased penalties, and 7% don’t know enough to say.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. Criminal offences vary between each state and territory. Data presented here differ slightly from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey report due to different analysis methodologies. The AIHW analysis excluded the “don’t know enough to say” category, thus changing the proportions in the remaining response categories.

Do Australians support or oppose a change in the legislation permitting use of cannabis for medical purposes?

The majority (76%) of Australians support a change in the legislation to allow use of cannabis for medical purposes.  A minority (4%) oppose a legislation change, 10% neither support nor oppose a legislation change, and 10% don’t know enough to say.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. Data presented here differ slightly from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey report due to different analysis methodologies. The AIHW analysis excluded the “don’t know enough to say” category, thus changing the proportions in the remaining response categories.

Do Australians support or oppose a clinical trial of cannabis use to treat medical conditions?

A high proportion (80%) of the Australian population supports a clinical trial of cannabis use to treat medical conditions. Three percent of Australians oppose a trial, 8% neither support nor oppose a trial, and 9% don’t know enough to say.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: Percentages may not tally to 100% due to rounding. Data presented here differ slightly from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey report due to different analysis methodologies. The AIHW analysis excluded the “don’t know enough to say” category, thus changing the proportions in the remaining response categories.