Politics

The ACT Is Legalising Weed, But As Always, There’s A Catch

And there are a heap of murky legal situations, too.

Cannabis

Residents of Canberra may soon be clear to 420 blaze it, as the ACT moves toward legalising recreational cannabis. But there’s a catch.

The ACT Legislative Assembly agreed to the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018 in principle today, which was introduced by last year by Labor MP Michael Pettersson and supported by the Greens.

They will now debate the details of the bill, which alters the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 to allow people over 18 to possess 50g of cannabis and grow two plants.

“This change will bring cannabis laws more in line with modern community standards and reflect global trends,” states the bill’s explanatory statement. “The Bill will reduce the burden on our criminal justice system and bring us a step closer to a cannabis market.”

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Australia, and social acceptance toward blazing it up continues to rise. Countries such as Canada and Uruguay have already legalised the drug, while research has shown a legal, regulated cannabis industry could generate the Australian government up to $1.7 billion in taxes.

However, all isn’t mellow in Australia’s capital. The Liberal party indicated opposition to the bill, with ACT shadow attorney-general Jeremy Hanson expressing concern that legalisation would encourage more people to use cannabis, and that there would be more instances of driving under the influence of drugs.

Further, the bill’s interaction with other state and Commonwealth laws currently creates a confusing legal situation.

While it may soon be legal to grow your own cannabis in the ACT, sharing your crop with others will still be illegal, even if you’re merely giving it away rather than selling it. “If there’s evidence that someone is providing cannabis to someone else, that’s supply and that’s an offence,” the ACT’s chief police officer Ray Johnson told ABC Radio (via The Canberra Times).

Cannabis will also still be illegal under Commonwealth law, however Pettersson pointed out that “a defence does exist under Commonwealth law if the use is excused or justified by state or territory law.”

It’s true that the bill will create some murky legal situations. Even so, these are issues that can be worked out, and which are far outweighed by the benefits of legalisation.

On top of the positive economic impact, legalising cannabis would ease the pressure on strained law enforcement, allow more effective treatment of medical issues where they arise, and counter social stigma faced by people who enjoy the good kush.

“Fundamentally, a criminal conviction can ruin someone’s life,” said Pettersson in an interview with Sydney Criminal Lawyers last year. “It can ruin someone’s educational opportunities. It can ruin someone’s work opportunities. And it can ruin someone’s ability to travel around the world. And I don’t think that is in line with the act of smoking a small amount of cannabis.

The changes are likely to come into effect early next year, provided they are approved by the ACT’s health minister.