New research has cast doubt on the perception that most young Australians consider cannabis to be a benign and harmless drug, with a third now viewing it as unacceptable. The work has been co-authored by UNSW's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

The study finds that although almost half (47 percent) of people under 30 have friends who use cannabis, a high proportion perceive the drug as dangerous, addictive and linked to a range of health and social problems.

This result is echoed in the broader community, with 83 percent of all adult Australians believing there are social problems associated with its use.

The research found that 60 percent of people agree that people arrested for cannabis use and possession should be referred to treatment programs rather than being punished under the criminal justice system.