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Australian Capital Territory Legalizes Cannabis Home Cultivation and Consumption

October 1, 2019

Last week, lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory voted to pass a measure that will allow residents over 18 years old to grow and consume cannabis. ACT locals will be permitted to grow up to plants each, possess up to 50 grams of dry cannabis and up to 150 grams of wet cannabis. The new measure will take effect on January 31st, 2020 even though cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

Cannabis Still Illegal Federally

Those who choose to cultivate and consume cannabis are being encouraged to do so in the privacy of their own homes since the commonwealth still considers it a criminal offense. Australian Capital Territory Attorney General Gordon Ramsay mentioned the potential risk during the legislative session in the Assembly on Wednesday. “This does not entirely remove the risk of people being arrested under Commonwealth law, and we are being up front with the community about that,” he noted.

The measure itself contains strict regulations regarding where cannabis can be consumed and cultivated. Residents of the Australian Capital Territory will not be allowed to consume cannabis in public, or anywhere near children, and will also have to store it somewhere inaccessible to children. All cannabis plants must be grown on private property that cannot be seen or accessed by the public.

Legal Defense for Cannabis Crimes

So what was the point of passing this legislation if the federal government can still arrest and prosecute people for cannabis use and cultivation? This new measure will at the very least provide a legal defense to those who are accused of cannabis-related crimes. 

Attorney General Ramsay went on to say, “The ACT’s legislation attempts to provide a clear and specific legal defence to an adult who possesses small amounts of cannabis in the ACT, but is prosecuted under Commonwealth law. But unfortunately it cannot stop someone being arrested and charged if the Commonwealth officials were minded to do so, or prosecuted if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions thought it appropriate to do so.”

Will Commonwealth Oppose Legislation?

Labor Party member Michael Pettersson introduced the bill to legalize cannabis cultivation and possession. Despite it being illegal on the federal level, Pettersson doesn’t believe the commonwealth government will try to fight the cannabis reforms. However, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was not amused, saying, “I think it might be trendy for the ACT government to go down this path, and they’ll say they’re enlightened and progressive and all the rest of it. But I think it’s dangerous.”

Only time will tell if the federal government in Australia will oppose this new cannabis legislation. It is important to note that cannabis will not be allowed to be sold or given away under the new legislation. There will be no legal regulatory framework for cultivation, distribution, or cannabis retail sales.