Canberra emerges with new recreational cannabis laws
Canberra, Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT), has now legalised the possession and cultivation of cannabis for recreational use. This change makes the ACT the first of Australia’s six states and two territories to legalise cannabis for adult use. The bill proposing this law was first brought to parliament by Labor Party Backbencher Michael Pettersson in 2018.
Under the new law, adults aged 18 and older can now legally
- Possess up to 50 grams (1.76 Ounces) of dried cannabis and 150 grams (5.29 Ounces) of wet cannabis; and
- Cultivate of up to four plants per residence, as long as they are not cultivated through hydroponic means.
These laws will take effect from the 31st of January 2020.
The conflict between Commonwealth and ACT laws
While the latest ACT legalisation move will make cannabis a legal substance for adults 18 and older, the Commonwealth’s laws still prohibit the possession and cultivation of cannabis for recreational use. As far as Section 308 of the Commonwealth Code is concerned, these cannabis-related activities are still crimes.
The major source of conflict concerning both laws is rooted in its implementation, particularly for ACT law enforcement operatives. If caught in the use, possession or cultivation of cannabis, ACT law enforcement operatives reserve the right to charge an individual under federal laws. This sentiment has already been expressed by ACT Law Society’s Chair Michael Kukulies-Smith.
Given these factors, will the Commonwealthchallengethese laws?
Aside the conflict stemming from the implementation of the ACT’s new cannabis law, lawmakers are now at loggerheads with each other on the law entirely. A great deal of political figures, including home affairs minister Peter Dutton and treasurer Josh Frydenberg, have joined a growing sect of politicians — particularly senior ministers — who strongly oppose the law.
Despite the enormous backlash dished by fellow politicians, Greg Hunt, the health minister, has expressed that Prime Minister Scott Morrisson’s government is making no active plans to overturn the ACT’s new cannabis laws. These laws can only be overridden by an Act of Parliament.
Speaking to ABC Radio, Hunt remarked that his primary concerns were not the legal implementations of the new law, but its health effects altogether. Citing studies released by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in the United Kingdom, Hunt has established the links between the consumption of marijuana and schizophrenia/psychosis, Hunt establishes that the legalisation of the substance will create greater risks of psychiatric problems in citizens.
Frydenberg, on the other hand, claims the Morrisson government does not endorse these laws and maintains the opinion that the consumption of cannabis is “criminal behaviour”.
Final words: What problemscould these laws cause for ACT cannabis consumers?
The ACT’s new cannabis laws will present a slew of benefits to cannabis consumers within the territory upon implementation. It is important to note, however, that these laws do not come without friction, particularly to the citizens within the territory.
The biggest point of friction concerning these laws is easily the conflict between ACT and Commonwealth laws. Consumers caught in possession, use or cultivation of cannabis can easily be charged under Commonwealth laws, even after ACT laws become effective on January 31 of next year.
Aside the prospects of confusing laws, cannabis consumers are faced with the reality of the lack of a legal cannabis market. While ACT laws have dissected the laws regarding cultivation, use and possession, there is absolutely no legislation or policy, as of yet, that tackles its supply mechanisms. Cannabis consumers would initially have to rely heavily on the law’s cultivation prong, which allows up to four cannabis plants to be grown per residence. Those who find that too complicated an endeavor (or simply don’t have the time or expertise to go down that cultivation road) will inherently be forced to procure the substance from black market dealers that are unsafe and add no value to the economy whatsoever.
The current ACT laws are a step in the right direction for Australia, however, if implemented haphazardly, they could take the nations miles backwards in the implementation of cannabis for recreational purposes.