Australia’s Capital Territory just legalised the possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis, becoming the first jurisdiction in the country to do so.
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a private member’s bill this afternoon—put forward by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson—that allows Canberrans over the age of 18 to possess 50 grams of weed and to grow two plants. The new laws will come into effect as of January 31, 2020.
Attorney-general Gordon Ramsay acknowledged that possessing and growing cannabis would remain a federal offence, and the risk of prosecution was therefore “not entirely removed”, but said that “in practice” those laws would not apply. He also told the Legislative Assembly that it was time to treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than an issue of “right and wrong.”
Cannabis still can’t be legally bought or sold in the ACT, however, and it’s therefore unclear how users are expected to get their hands on the drug in the first place. The ACT's chief police officer Ray Johnson also pointed out that sharing cannabis between people, even when no money is involved, would still constitute a state offence.
"If there's evidence that someone is providing cannabis to someone else, that's supply and that's an offence," he told ABC radio earlier today, adding that "we'll work to make [the new legislation] as effective as it can be."
ACT shadow attorney-general, Jeremy Hanson, told the assembly 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 federal health minister Greg Hunt also confirmed that the federal government did not support legalising cannabis for recreational use.
A review of the laws will be conducted within three years.