In a historic move, Australia’s Capital Territory has become the first jurisdiction in the country to legalise recreational marijuana.
After being put forward by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, a private member’s bill was passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly today (September 25).
This will allow Canberrans to legally possess 50 grams of dry cannabis or 150 grams of wet cannabis, and to grow two plants – granted they are over the age of 18.
As reported by ABC News, Pettersson told the assembly:
Some members of the community may wish this bill went further, such as establishing a market for the sale of small amounts of cannabis.
This would not be possible under current federal law, and has never been the purpose of this bill. This bill is simply about legalising cannabis for personal use.
The new laws will come into effect as of January 31, 2020 – however, there are some caveats.
The risk of prosecution from possessing and growing cannabis is ‘not entirely removed’, as it still remains a federal offence. However, as reported by ABC News, Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said, in practice, those laws won’t apply.
Ramsay also told the Legislative Assembly that it was time to look at drug addiction not so much as a matter of ‘right and wrong’, but a health issue.
For the moment, it’s unclear how ACT residents will get their hands on weed to start with – it’s still illegal to sell and buy cannabis in the territory.
Ray Johnson, the ACT’s chief police officer, was quick to assure people that even if there’s no money involved, sharing marijuana between people still constitutes as a state offence.
As reported by ABC News, Johnson said:
If there’s evidence that someone is providing cannabis to someone else, that’s supply and that’s an offence
Johnson also said he’s ‘not suggesting for one second that ACT Policing members are going to start a campaign of going out and charging everyone with Commonwealth offences’, adding that ‘we’ll work to make [the new legislation] as effective as it can be’.
Jeremy Hanson, ACT shadow attorney-general, said the Liberal opposition would not be supporting the bill over fears that it was poorly drafted and would lead to ‘perverse outcomes’.
A spokesperson for the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, also confirmed the federal government did not support legalising cannabis for recreational use.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.