The tacit secret: Most Aussie get their cannabis through illicit channels

Image Source: American Heart Association

Story Genre and Theme

The Australian Federal Government legalised access to medicinal cannabis in 2016. Except for medicinal purposes, the use, possession and supply of cannabis is illegal in all states and territories in Australia. However, the 2018–2019 Online Cross-Sectional Cannabis as Medicine Survey shows that only 2.4% of respondents indicated they had accessed licit medical cannabis prescribed by a doctor.

And, as we all know, cannabis contains a component called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which produces some intoxicating effects. Therefore, many Aussies also sneakily use cannabis for recreation. It’s not a very strange thing for many people to walk down the city streets at night and suddenly sniff out the smell of burning marijuana leaves as you pass some bars or clubs. Apparently, these ‘underground users’ can only get cannabis through illicit channels as well.

As you can imagine, the black market for cannabis in Australia is huge. Thus, this feature will focus on the illegal ways people get their cannabis.

Based on the research and interviews to date, I have listed the following four illegal approaches:

  1. Private planting
  2. offline tobacco store trading
  3. Chatting APP transaction
  4. malinger to get prescription

I will elaborate on all these approaches in Assignment 3. For the fourth way, more than one interviewee told me that they had heard similar stories. Some of their ‘friends of friends’, pretending to have mental issues such as anxiety or sleep disorders, then giving false answers during clinical tests, had managed to get prescriptions for medicinal cannabis from doctors. However, due to the expensive price of medicinal cannabis, the rigorous scrutiny of doctors, and the cumbersome TGA application steps, I wonder if this approach really exists or is feasible?

Information source


I will be interviewing a number of locals, international students, or people with work visas, asking them about their personal experiences, their opinions on Cannabis, and what they have heard about ways to buy it. The issue would be potentially defamatory, so some of the interviewees will speak on condition of anonymity. And I’ll use the fake name in the final feature story.

In addition, I will be looking for an expert in mental health and substance use areas and ask them how they identify patient’s cannabis abuse and addiction problems in practice? What professional norms do they need to follow? How can they tell if a patient is faking or actually has a mental health issues?

Online Source:

Government websites, news platform, academic papers

Chosen Publication & Target Audience

I will publish this story on ABC News, who has previously produced many features on medicinal cannabis problems. And these articles were also important online sources for me while writing this story.

eg: Cannabis is the only thing easing their chronic pain. Now their father is facing jail

Medicinal cannabis is legal in Australia, but people like Grace are still turning to the black market

According to ABC annual report in 2022,among those who have used ABC digital services in the past month, the vast majority (91%) believe the quality of content is“good”, with 46% of ABC online users rating the quality as“very good”. 88% of users also feel that ABC Online does a“good job”on the amount of relevant content it provides.

Therefore, it’s a appropriate online journalism for this feature.

Multimedia, hypertext and interactivity

  • Hyperlinks
  • Image
  • Interviewee’s audio (not sure right now)


  1. Hi Yiling,
    I really like your proposal. Your proposal appears to have been well-researched and thought out. You have chosen a sensitive and real timely topic subject and provided concise explanations on how to investigate how individuals in Australia acquire cannabis illegally. I think you may need to spend a lot of time following up on this list of different cannabis issues through illicit channels. Alternatively, do you only want to report one illegal approach?

    However, you have mentioned the possibility of using hyperlinks and images, it may be worth considering other interactive elements such as videos or data visualizations to enhance reader engagement and understanding. All the link is work and effective but maybe you can provide the link opened in other windows for more convenience. Additionally, while you are considering the interviewees’ concerns about privacy, using interviewee audio could still be a valuable addition.

    Overall, your proposal is well-developed and has the potential to be an informative and engaging feature for ABC News.

  2. Hello Yiling,
    given the ongoing discussion surrounding the legalisation of cannabis and its use in Australia, your topic is unquestionably a significant public issue. Yet, I believe it might be challenging to find reliable and comprehensive information about the various cannabis-purchasing options – especially when you ask people on the street about it.
    A possible adjustment of perspective would be to focus on differences between illegal ‘fun’ consumption and consumption for health reasons. Your recommendation to include a mental health and drug usage expert gives the story greater credibility.
    Also, I like your idea of embedding audio files of the interviewees in your feature. You mentioned some statistics. Perhaps you could graph these as well for more interaction. Much success!

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