The Northern Territory welcomes the leadership role in the legal cannabis experiment
The Northern Territory could soon be the most cannabis-friendly place in Australia.
The Northern Territory (NT) government appears to be in support of moving the cannabis industry forward. Federal laws legalised cultivating medical marijuana in 2016. This year, they allowed exports from Australia. Now, Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner looks set to decriminalise recreational marijuana. He plans to allow growing marijuana in the NT for medicinal as well as recreational purposes.
The State of Recreational Marijuana in NT
As of now, under the Misuse of Drugs Act., cultivating, possessing or supplying marijuana for unlicensed persons is a crime in the NT. Penalties for the accused range from a fine to lengthy periods of imprisonment.
A person caught with less than 50 grams of cannabis in their home will face a fine. In this case, the offender doesn’t have to make a visit to court or receive a conviction if they pay the fine within 28 days. But possession of cannabis, regardless of quantity, in a public area is an offence with the penalty of imprisonment and a conviction in court.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner on Marijuana Legalization
Gunner’s call to legalize cannabis for personal use came after California and Colorado recently allowed people to grow and carry up to 28 grams of pot for recreational purposes. Cannabis advocate Gunner says many American states have fully legalised and decriminalised marijuana, but no state in Australia has yet followed suit. He added that by not following in the footprints of America, they are lagging behind many progressive parts of the world. In a press conference, Gunner referenced international approaches that prioritize treatments or rehabilitation for drug users, instead of legal prosecution.
Earlier this year, a draft proposal to legalise industrial hemp growing in the NT was presented in Cabinet. A government spokesperson said the laws to regulate the hemp industry in the Territory are expected to pass by the end of this year.
A successful government trial crop in Katherine proved that climate conditions are highly-favourable to give NT a big commercial advantage. The spokesperson said that industrial hemp would also create and flourish a new job industry in the territory.
Several reports hinted that the NT government might allow commercial cultivation of medical marijuana as a result of implementing legalisation similar to New South Wales and Victoria. The move will allow the production of medical marijuana by pharmaceutical companies and the retail and distribution of medical marijuana products to patients.
The need for the Policy
Mr. Gunner has set up a parliamentary committee to review future strategies, including decriminalisation of cannabis and other drugs. Decriminalisation means eliminating penalties such as imprisonment or conviction with a criminal record. It doesn’t make a product legal, and it’s unclear if it would be illegal in the NT. Giving examples of American states, he said that it didn’t mean it would work equally well in the NT, where cannabis is a big problem among certain groups of people. That’s why a well-formulated and properly reviewed policy is needed.
Jeff Collins on Marijuana in NT
Jeff Collins, who is a member for Fong Lim in Darwin, referenced Portugal and said that the government should initiate the decriminalization of all illicit drugs for personal use, as Portugal has done. He suggested that government can tax these drugs and boost their revenues, instead of rich criminals profiting from an illegal product. However, he has only supported decriminalisation as the government committee is looking into illicit drugs.
Anything that cuts down harm and crime in the country should be favoured. Mr. Collins said that Canada and Australia have a similar jurisdiction, and Australia should follow the Canadian model for legalising marijuana.
There are numerous economic opportunities following the future decriminalisation of weed in the Northern Territory. Mayor Fay Miller is very excited about the idea of legalising medicinal cannabis and expanding the hemp industry in the NT. She said that many of her friends had gained significant pain relief using marijuana.
All in all, the industry’s cheerleaders and marijuana advocates forecast a bright future for the NT following the legalisation of weed. It doesn’t seem like it will be a long wait before citizens can legally possess and smoke weed in the Northern Territory.