Canberra, the capital of Australia, has become the first jurisdiction to legalise cannabis for personal use.
As of January 31, 2020, it will be legal to possess and grow cannabis for personal use within Australia’s capital. The new law was passed on Wednesday afternoon at the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Gordon Ramsay, the ACT attorney-general, spoke at the assembly to say he believed it was time for drug addiction to be treated like an issue of health rather than an issue of “right and wrong”.
Along with the new law, there will be accompanying drug and alcohol services and there’ll be an introduction of specific drug courts.
Ramsay also acknowledged that the risk of the prosecution was not “entirely removed”, yet “in practice” the laws would not apply. Therefore conceding that to possess and grow cannabis would still be a federal offense.
ACT shadow attorney-general, Jeremy Hanson, informed the assembly on Wednesday that the Liberal opposition would not be in support of this new bill, claiming it was badly drafted and would lead to several “perverse outcomes”.
Hanson said it would be seen as an encouraging sign for people to use cannabis – despite medical professionals saying it leads to an increased risk of psychosis – and there would be a surge in people being charged for drug-driving.
Another issue was that it would be an issue of conflict for the police, with the commonwealth law being confusing.
Hanson elaborated: “This puts not only individuals at a greater level of risk but our police will be out there on the beat working in this unclear legal framework.”
Within the next three years, a review of the laws will be conducted.
However, it will be a while before bush residents of the capital will be able to light up, the ACT’s health minister will need to sign off when the law comes into effect.
Michael Petersson, a Labour backbencher, has introduced the private members’ bill. He has stated a defense exists for the use of cannabis under the commonwealth law – as long as the use is excused or justified by the state or territory law.
Petersson said: “Commonwealth law has been written with the express understanding that there are differences.
“I don’t think it’s particularly likely the commonwealth government will try to fight this.”
Federal attorney-general, Christian Porter, has said the bill was a matter for the ACT, with commonwealth laws applied they will remain enforceable.
Any amendments that will be made to the cannabis bill will require that cannabis be kept out of reach of children, the amendments will also bar adults from using it near children and or attempting to grow it in community gardens.
This is not the first time that laws which have been introduced by the territory that have then clashed with federal laws.
The capital legalised same-sex marriage in 2013, which the federal government then revoked after the law was taken to the High court.
The Northern territory legalised voluntary euthanasia in 1995, only to have the federal government legislate to stop the nation’s territories trying to introduce assisted dying.
In other news, Australia’s fifth state, Victoria, has passed a bill which means kids can now choose their own gender.