Cannabis In The Australian Capital Territory

If you are from the US and reading this think of the ACT just as you would DC.

This story refers to the small  “territory” legislature which in the end in is beholden to the federal powers so even if this piece of legislation  gets through after being neutered, see below, the big boys and girls (although because it is Australia we are somewhat light on female representatives at national level politics) could, if they so desire, put a halt to the whole shebang.

Labor MLA Michael Pettersson. has been trying for some time to introduce a private members bill to make  adult use cannabis legal here’s the latest set of amendments others want the bill to carry. We applaud Pettersson for his tenacity but we’re not going to hold our breath on anything actually happening.

Pedestrian reports

In its current state, the bill will make it legal for an individual to possess four naturally cultivated (we’ll get back to this) cannabis plants and possess up to 50 grams of weed for personal use. The bill has the in-principle support of both the Labor party and the Greens, which gives them the majority required to pass the bill in the ACT’s legislative assembly.

According to the bill’s explanatory statement, two of its primary motivating factors are changing attitudes to weed and research that has, so far, found it to be not all that bad for you compared to, say, smoking and drinking:

Community attitudes on cannabis are shifting and unbiased research has shown it is not a particularly harmful substance. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare in their report, Impact of Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use on the Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia, alcohol represents 4.6% of the total burden of diseases and injuries in Australia, tobacco 9% and cannabis only 0.1%.

Despite causing 46 times less harm than alcohol, cannabis remains illegal. . . . The National Drug Household Strategy Household Survey 2016 found that 35% of Australians have used cannabis and 10% have used it in the last year. But the substantial profits of cannabis go to organised crime and away from health and education.

Although they agree that it is, indeed, time to legalise it, both Labor and the Greens have amendments to the bill they intend to put forward before it becomes law. The current bill makes it legal for a person to cultivate one to four plants, but only if they do not do so in an ‘artificial’ manner. Specifically, this means that it hasn’t been been “hydroponically” cultivated or grown “with the application of an artificial source of light or heat“.

According to Pettersson, this exclusion is made on the basis that it is substantially easier to grow larger amounts quicker using hydro and grow lamps, which could allow people to cultivate an amount that would far exceed the amount needed for personal use. This is especially true if, say, you had more than six or seven people living in a share house, each using their personal limit.

One of the amendments to the bill that the Greens are seeking is to remove that exclusion, on the basis that “almost all the cannabis consumed in the ACT is cultivated artificially and growing through more ‘natural’ means is not viable for a significant portion of the year in the ACT’s climate“, according to ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

The Greens are also seeking to increase the legal amount for people that are using weed for medicinal purposes, believing that they may need to stockpile larger amounts and that 50 grams could be insufficient for that purpose. Additionally, they aim to add a set of objectives into the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 to “reflect a commitment to harm minimisation and the treatment of drug use as a health issue“, in concert with which they want to establish an independent cannabis advisory council to provide advice to the government on this issue.

Rattenbury indicated that further changes may need to be made with technicalities in the bill, such as with the limits as to where you can legally smoke. The current text of the bill would make it an offence to smoke cannabis within 20 metres of a child (fair enough, you don’t want to hotbox a child) but, as Rattenbury pointed out to P.TV, this becomes somewhat complicated if you, say, live in an apartment block and unknowingly vape while a child is on the other side of your living room wall.

As a fun aside, here is how smoking cannabis is defined in the current bill:

  • to directly puff smoke, or vapour, from cannabis, or a product that contains cannabis, whether or not a device for the inhalation of smoke, or vapour, is used; or
  • to hold or to have control over—
    • cannabis, or a product that contains cannabis, while it is ignited; or
    • a personal vaporiser that contains cannabis and that is 1 activated

Where a ‘device’ is, for example: a personal vaporiser, a hookah, water pipe, bong, or cigarette holder. I absolutely love to hold or have control over a product that contains cannabis while it is ignited. Simply cannot get enough of it.

At this stage, it looks promising that the bill will come into effect this year. Pettersson told P.TV that he understands it will likely be voted on at the “middle of the year“, similarly Chief minister Andrew Barr told the Canberra Times that he reckons it might well be “the middle of the year before debate concludes“. Rattenbury told P.TV that he believes it could be in place in “broad terms” before the end of the year, including a period for public education.


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