“Canberra” is supposedly a bastardisation of the local indigenous word, referring to a “meeting place”. Fittingly, it has since become a place for politicians to have their meetings. This could potentially be just as true for stoners all across Australia, after a bill was recently introduced that, if passed, will effectively legalise the possession and use of cannabis across the territory.
On the 19th of September, a private member’s bill was submitted to the territory’s legislative assembly by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson. The Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Bill Amendment 2018  provides amendments to reform the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 in relation to personal possession of cannabis and consequential amendments to the Criminal Code (ACT) 2002.
The bill amends criminal laws to permit the use of cannabis, with possession legal up to a limit of 50g. Additionally, it would permit individuals to cultivate up to four cannabis plants for personal use. The bill ultimately proposes that a shift in cannabis regulations would bring the territory in line with global trends and community opinion, whilst dramatically reducing the burden on the territory’s criminal justice system.
Legalisation is Still a Ways to Go
Whilst this news is exciting, the bill does not amount to an outright call for the legalisation of cannabis. It maintains significant penalties for possession above 50g, along with the keeping the cultivation of more than four plants, artificial cultivation, and sale of the plant illegal.
In the ACT, cannabis is currently illegal to possess, cultivate, supply or sell, in any quantity. Penalties range from $100 up to $250 000 fines and life imprisonment . Mr Pettersson himself has pointed out that 60 percent of drug-related arrests in the ACT are cannabis-related . He maintains that legalising personal possession would stop adults from receiving a criminal record for small infractions, lessening the burden on the criminal justice system . According to the Labor backbencher, the four plant allowance would also reduce the influence of the black market and drug dealers in Canberra.
The consultation period for the draft runs from the 19th of September to the 22nd of November . If you live in the territory, be sure to have your voice heard on this issue by contacting your representatives.
Sources Cited – https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ed/db_58963/  https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/View/es/db_58967/current/PDF/db_58967.PDF  https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/legalising-personal-cannabis-use-an-interview-with-act-labor-mp-michael-pettersson/  https://police.act.gov.au/safety-and-security/alcohol-and-drugs/drugs-and-law  https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politics/act/new-labor-bill-would-make-using-and-growing-cannabis-legal-in-canberra-20180914-p503rs.html