By Caitlin Hughes and Alison Ritter 


This bulletin summarises data from a nationally representative survey of Australians (The National Drug Strategy Household Survey) which asks people their opinions about the legal status of drug in 2016. We differentiate what Australians think about “legalisation” versus “decriminalisation” for four different types of drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and meth/amphetamine) across three survey years: 2010, 2013 and 2016. We also explore how the Australian public think money should be directed in responding to illicit drugs.

Key messages

  • Support for decriminalisation and legalisation has grown in Australian between 2010 and 2016, particularly for cannabis
  • As of 2016 there is strong public support amongst Australians for decriminalisation of possession for personal use of all illicit drugs: 50-78% support such actions
  • Echoing this trend there has been growing public support to invest in treatment and education not law enforcement
  • Similar trends are observed in most parts of Australia.