At the end of last month, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Authority made history by passing a bill to legalise recreational Cannabis. The new law will make recreational use and cultivation legal in the territory of Canberra. This makes the jurisdiction the first part of the country to further liberalise Cannabis laws.
However, the decision has faced some opposition throughout the rest of the country.
On September 25th, the ACT passed a bill into law which would make adult recreational use, possession of up to 50g, and the growing or two Cannabis plants per person (no more than four per household), legal.
The opposition claimed that the change would encourage more people to use the drug, and this, in turn, would lead to more health issues. However, the Attorney General, Gordon Ramsey, argued against this position. Supporters claimed that it is more important to treat the issue of marijuana use as a health issue, as opposed to a criminal one.
Medical Cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2017. Most areas in Australia had also already taken the decision to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, possession is still illegal under federal law. Canberra has become the first area of the country to further liberalise legislation around the plant. But, critics claim that residents could still be arrested under federal law.
Most recently, the Royal Australasian Collee of Surgeons (RACS) has warned that legalising Cannabis will lead to more deaths and injuries on roads. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development have also expressed opposition to the new law.
Despite this, the former Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Palmer, has come forward to praise the move:
“I welcome what I consider to be a courageous decision by the ACT parliament to put control into a completely uncontrolled environment.”
The Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, Andrew Barr, also argued against the claim. The minister explained that prosecutions for possession would require the approval of federal prosecutors, who are “concerned with larger matters”.
Cannabis is still considered as an illicit substance under Commonwealth law, which technically has precedence over the ACT laws, should federal prosecutors choose to push forward with prosecutions.
It may even be possible that the Commonwealth will overrule the ACT. This could lead to the law being scrapped, as it is inconsistent with the Commonwealth’s own legislation. As it stands, the future of the new law remains uncertain.