The forward marching movement that is cannabis legalization has finally reached Australian shores, with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) becoming the first Australian state to legalize cannabis in September 2019.
Despite the legislation for cannabis legalization being recently passed, the law itself will not come into effect until it is signed by the health minister on January 31, 2020.
Under the legislation, those over 18 years of age in the ACT will be allowed to grow two cannabis plants and possess up to 50 grams of cannabis.
While possession and cultivation will be legal, consumption in public will still be prohibited. The selling, sharing, or gifting of cannabis or cannabis seeds will also remain illegal. So while you may be allowed to grow and own a cannabis plant, actually procuring the plant in the first place will constitute a crime.
Uneven Legal Ground
While the ACT is about to legalize cannabis, cannabis possession will still be considered a crime under Commonwealth laws.
This sort of legal limbo will put the ACT in a similar position to legalized American states. While the US may be growing a reputation as a legal cannabis haven, it is only in certain states that have legalized medical (33 states) and recreational cannabis (11 states and Washington DC), while cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
People in Canberra could, therefore, find themselves both adhering to and breaking the same law at once. And the commonwealth laws are nothing to laugh at, with the maximum prison sentence being two years. No one is certain what will happen to those who consume or grow cannabis in the ACT, but it seems the decision will be down to police and prosecutorial discretion.
What About The Rest Of Australia?
While people living in Canberra may find themselves confused as to the legal state of cannabis come January 31st, the answer is crystal clear for the rest of Australia. Possession, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis all remain a crime in the rest of Australia, with no legislation being passed in any states other than the ACT.
Cannabis that is legally owned in Canberra will also become illegal as soon as it is transported out of the ACT to any other state. Medical cannabis, on the other hand, was legalized at the federal level in 2016.
Not The First Time The ACT Has Led The Way
While being the first and only states to vote in cannabis legalization may seem like a bold move, it is not the first time the ACT has introduced laws that differed to the rest of the country.
In 2013 the state became the first to legalize same-sex marriage until the law was revoked in the High Court after a challenge by the federal government.
While same-sex marriage took another four years until it was legalized across Australia, there will surely be many in Canberra hoping that the January 31st deadline for cannabis legalization holds steady.
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