Bleats

Has The ACT Blazed A Trail For The Rest Of Australia By Legalising Weed?

Light the way.

In great news for everyone who has ever had secret dreams of getting incredibly high at Questacon, the ACT has become the first Australian state to legalise cannabis. The bill will let people over 18 have up to 50g on them and grow up to two plants at home – as long as they don’t smoke around kids or drive while stoned.

The laws will kick in from 31 January 2020, so you still have about four months before you can actually stroll around with a joint without being arrested – according to state laws at least. Possessing any marijuana is still a federal offence, so I’m sorry to tell you that cops will still have the power to arrest and charge anyone under national laws.

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter says that he doesn’t think it’s particularly likely that the Commonwealth government will try to fight the ACT on their new laws, but I guess we’ll find that out on January 31st.

While the ACT blazes forward (lol), every state and territory has slightly different ways in which they deal with the devil’s lettuce.

In South Australia, cannabis possession was decriminalised in 1987, but it is very much still illegal. If you get caught with less than 25g, you’ll probably cop a fine about the size of a parking ticket and that’s about it.

In Western Australia, being caught with less than 10g will get you a Cannabis Intervention Requirement, which basically means you’re off to a mandatory counselling session. More than 10g and you’re up for criminal charges.

Northern Territorians found with less than 50g can apologise and pay $200 within 28 days to get out of criminal charges.

New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania are not putting up with any of it though, and possession of any amount will get you slapped with a criminal offence.

Of course these are the laws for recreational use – each state and territory handles medical marijuana a little bit differently. Every state will let you access it as long as you jump through all the hoops that they’ve set up. For example, in Queensland you can get a prescription from specialists if you have a condition like MS, epilepsy, cancer, or HIV/AIDS. In New South Wales, you can only access it if you’re an adult with a terminal illness.

It’s easy to get excited about the ACT laws and think that this may be the first step towards being able to waltz into a cafe and order a joint like they do in Amsterdam, but that’s probably not going to happen any time soon. Mostly because, again, federal laws still say cannabis is a big no-no. This particular bill is only about legalising marijuana for personal use, not selling it.

In saying that though, the ACT legalised same sex marriage (at least until the federal government told them they couldn’t do that) four years before the rest of the country, way back in 2013. Maybe this is another one of those cases where Canberra leads the nation? We’ll just have to wait and see.

We Need To Talk About Assisted Dying Laws, No Matter How Uncomfortable It Is

Western Australia is the latest state to debate an assisted dying bill.

Western Australia has moved one step closer to legalising voluntary euthanasia, with a voluntary assisted dying bill has passing the state’s lower house. Now it’s on to the senate.

While the bill easily moved through the lower house with a vote of 45-11, the senate might be a bit trickier. The state Labor government has a clear majority in the lower house, but less than half of the upper house seats, meaning they’re in for a battle with the crossbench.

If the senate passes the bill, Western Australia will become the second state to legalise voluntary euthanasia after Victoria passed their own bill in 2017, with laws coming into effect in June.

When Victoria passed their bill, they added a number of prerequisites that had to be met before you could be given the drug to end your life. A person needs be at least 18 years old, have a disease that will probably kill them within 6 months, or a year if it’s a neurodegenerative disease. They need to have been living in Victoria for at least a year, and be mentally sound enough to be able to go through all the hoops of the formal request process. Only then will someone qualify for voluntary euthanasia.

Western Australia’s bill looks similar. There are 102 separate safeguards in the bill to make sure that not just anybody can waltz in and ask for the drugs. These include mental health checks to make sure the person knows what they’re doing, a minimum of two independent medical assessments, and protections against pressuring someone to end their life.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park to get to this point, as voluntary euthanasia is one of those topics that nobody seems to sit on the fence about. People either feel very strongly that it should be legal and easily accessible, or feel very strongly that it shouldn’t. The debate in the Western Australian parliament ran for 20 hours straight – the longest sitting they’ve had in more than 20 years. It will probably be a similar story in the senate. 

While we grapple with new laws here in Australia, some countries have already had them for two decades. Both The Netherlands and Belgium totally legalised assisted dying in 2002. In The Netherlands, they don’t have any requirement to be terminally ill, and they don’t have any waiting period before giving people life ending drugs. In Belgium, any competent adult can access euthanasia, but there is a one-month waiting period if a person isn’t terminally ill.

In these countries, the fact that people can choose assisted dying is just a part of life. About 3% of deaths in The Netherlands every year are assisted, and 4% in Belguim. Maybe you find those numbers small, maybe you find them surprisingly big, but every person who was counted in those statistics was able to pass away peacefully by their own choice.

If all goes the way the Western Australian government hopes it will, then people living there will also be able to make that same choice.

Unfortunately this is not a topic we can shy away from. As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes. We might not be comfortable thinking about it, but it’s something we’re all going to have to deal with someday in one way or another.

The Government Has Introduced A Dress Code For New Aussies That We Never Needed

Let's not forget the PM's own fashion faux pas.

The Government seems to have gotten really interested in the details of citizenship ceremonies lately. It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that a number of councils, including Launceston council earlier this week, have voted to move their Australia Day celebrations away from January 26th as a show of respect to Indigenous people.

Yeah nah, that was a lie, it’s absolutely about that.

You might have heard about the immediate crackdown that Scott Morrison announced, stripping the right to hold citizenship ceremonies away from councils who dared to acknowledge that January 26th has some pretty heavy historical baggage attached to it.

The part that didn’t make as many headlines was the proposed introduction of a new dress code, and honestly, it’s pretty vague even by regular dress code standards (what the hell is the difference between cocktail attire and semi formal? I will never know). Morrison went to the effort of pointing out that boardies and thongs in particular would no longer be allowed, and cultural clothes are a-ok, but other than that the code itself doesn’t ‘dictate standards’.

Hijabs are fine, Havaianas are not fine, and that’s about it.

Maaatttee.

My first thought was that telling people to wear whatever the hell they want as long as it isn’t boardies and thongs is an excellent way to make sure some smartass shows up wearing a pink morphsuit and running shoes. But then I remembered something: those rules have always been an unspoken thing anyway and literally nobody has ever shown up in a pink morphsuit and running shoes.

Citizenship ceremonies are incredibly special events for people who have migrated here. It’s the day they’re officially making Australia home, and these people don’t need to be told to treat it with the respect it deserves. They already do. Boardies and thongs don’t need to be ruled ‘no longer’ allowed, because nobody ever wore them to a citizenship ceremony to begin with.

Let’s be real, the only people who would find it funny to rock up to such a formal occasion wearing an Australian flag cape with a temporary southern cross tattoo stuck to their forehead are people who are already citizens.

Maybe Scott Morrison sees a lot of boardies and thongs worn in unfortunate places around the Shire, but I’m convinced that citizenship ceremonies are not one of those places. I went digging to see if I could find any example at all of someone incredibly underdressed to take their pledge to Australia, and found absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. I found a lot of people agonising over whether or not jeans were too informal, but not one single, solitary cork hat was to be found.

I guess if you’re really desperate to wear thongs though, you could take a leaf out of Morrison’s very own fashion handbook and photoshop some nice white running shoes over the pictures afterwards. Straya.

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