Confusion over rival cannabis parties

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An existing political party in Victoria that wants to legalise cannabis has asked the state electoral commission to reject the registration application of the rival Legalise Marijuana Party arguing it is “designed to confuse voters to siphon votes”.

Legalise Cannabis Victoria’s secretary, Craig Ellis, has written to the Victorian electoral commissioner, Warwick Gately, questioning the legitimacy of the Legalise Marijuana Party which last month applied to register as a political party ahead of November’s state poll.

He said the Legalise Marijuana Party’s application should be rejected because it “so nearly resembles the name of another registered political party that it is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name”.

“We regard the attempt to register the Legalise Marijuana Party as an egregious case of passing off designed to confuse voters to siphon votes away from Legalise Cannabis,” Ellis’s letter, sent on Tuesday, states.

He said Legalise Cannabis was an “established political brand” with parties in every mainland state and at the federal level.

At the 2021 Western Australian state election, the party secured two upper house seats, while at May’s federal election it received about 500,000 first-preference votes and was briefly in competition with Pauline Hanson for the sixth Queensland Senate spot.

Ellis said there was no website for the Legalise Marijuana Party and “extensive inquiries have failed to identify the organisation”.

“A Google search for the term ‘Legalise Marijuana Party’ directs you to the websites of the Legalise Cannabis federal and state parties,” he wrote.

Guardian Australia has not been able to contact the Legalise Marijuana Party.

In its application to the Victorian electoral commission (VEC), the Legalise Marijuana Party lists Gurmeet Kaur as its secretary and a Reservoir residential property as its address. The property is currently vacant and listed for private sale.

Ellis told Guardian Australia that members of his party had knocked on the property’s front door and received no response.

“It appears to be a deserted derelict house. There doesn’t appear to be anyone living there – there is mail strewn on the lawn,” he said. “There is no evidence this group exists. The whole thing just stinks.”

An education programs officer at Museums Victoria who shares the name of the Legalise Marijuana Party’s registered officer took to Twitter last month to say she had no involvement with the party.

The party’s proposed logo also bears no resemblance to a cannabis plant, Ellis said.

Ellis argued in his submission to the electoral commission that the Legalise Marijuana Party shouldn’t be registered because it “so nearly resembles” his party’s name and it was “likely to be confused with or mistaken for” it.

The party secretary wrote a “reasonable person would think there is some connection between the two parties which does not exist”. Both claims if accepted are grounds for the application to be denied under Victoria’s Electoral Act.

Ellis said the operative word in both party names – “legalise” – was identical while the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” were used “interchangeably by a large proportion of the Australian public”.

The abbreviation of the party names – Legalise Cannabis and Legalise Marijuana also had identical meanings, Ellis argued.

A spokesperson for the VEC said any objections received to party registrations were passed on to the applicant whose response was then published. The closing date for objections to the proposed registration of the Legalise Marijuana Party is 19 September.

The commission’s spokesperson said applicants must provide a physical address to register a party. “There is no other requirement under electoral laws with regards to the physical address provided to the VEC,” they said.

To be eligible for registration, a party must have at least 500 members who are on the Victorian electoral roll and are not members of another registered political party.

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