Canberra might seem like an unlikely place for progressive drug law reform, but for three years now, the ACT has been leading the charge when it comes to decriminalisation. Since 2020, Canberrans have been able to possess up to 50g of dried cannabis without penalty, grow up to two plants themselves or four per household, and use cannabis in their own homes without fear of being narced on by neighbours.
Last month, small amounts of hard drugs and common psychedelics were also decriminalised. Instead of being charged with possession, those found with these drugs will instead pay a small fine or be asked to attend a drug diversion program.
In Canberra, a glimpse into the long hoped for future of Australian drug laws is essentially already here. So what do the locals think about it? The sky hasn’t fallen in obviously, as some anti-drug campaigners still claim it will. But it’s still well worth finding out what the word on the street is so we can see what the future might look like across the rest of the country in the years to come.
Our good friends at the Craze Collective, Alec Zammitt and Will Stolk, decided to take a visit to the ACT to do just that. They interviewed everyday Canberra citizens on the street as well as citizens who have been growing it.
Overall, the response was what most would expect.
“The consensus was the cannabis legislation changes were a step in the right direction but not far enough and the new legislation affecting all drugs are welcome changes,” said Will Stolk.
Most people noticed some amount of positive change. Recreational users are happy that prices have gone down and it’s a touch easier to find now.
People who know recreational users have noticed that cannabis is being used a bit more openly but no one has taken up using it just because it has been decriminalised. Those interviewed who didn’t know any users before haven’t really seen any change at all.
All of this is in line with what many drug reform campaigners have been saying for decades now. Almost all people who want to use cannabis are already doing so. Those who haven’t used it already are unlikely to start any time soon regardless of its legal status.
On the growing side of things, the current laws still leave a bit to be desired.
“The community identified key issues with current cannabis policy such as issues with theft and climate due to not being allowed to use artificial light sources as well as issues with seed supply, currently a blind eye is turned regarding how all legal growers obtain their seeds,” said Alec Zammitt.
It’s still illegal to grow hydroponically or use an artificial light source, which essentially rules out indoor growing. The only way you can legally grow it at the moment is the old fashioned way, which means lower strength and bears the risk of someone jumping the fence and stealing it.
The seeds themselves are still illegal across the rest of the country as well, which makes them hard to come by. This has been quite frustrating for those who want to grow their own for medical use or who would prefer to be able to grow with a hydroponic set-up. Hopefully, there will be laxer laws around growing in the future.
Drug driving laws, even for legal medical patients, remain unchanged and roadside testing still focuses on presence rather than impairment. One interviewee found the current drug driving laws to still be quite “immoral”. There’s definitely room for improvement on that front for sure.
When asked about the more recent decriminalisation of hard drugs and common psychedelics, most people were optimistic that the new approach would lead to harm reduction. Portugal was cited as an example of what the future could look like for the ACT in the coming years.
Unsurprisingly, the police were less than willing to speak about the effects of reform when asked at the very end of the video. Guess you can’t win them all…