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.