Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory have passed a landmark bill that legalizes recreational cannabis use and allows people to grow their own marijuana.
It makes ACT the first territory in Australia to allow residents to enjoy cannabis for recreational purposes. They can now possess up to 50g and grow up to four plants at home after the Labour Party managed to pass the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018.
It was introduced by Labour backbencher Michael Pettersson and all 12 Labour parliamentarians supported the bill. There are 25 votes up for grabs in the ACT, so it needed a majority of 13 to pass.
Green Party leader Shane Rattenbury supported the bill and that allowed it to gain the necessary 13 votes. It can now become law, although it could still be overturned if it is challenged at a federal level. Australia has legalized medicinal marijuana, but not recreational use.
In many ways, ACT is similar to the District of Columbia in the U.S. It houses the nation’s capital, Canberra, and it has a population of 420,000, including the nation’s leading politicians.
It is legal to possess cannabis in Washington, D.C., but the sale of cannabis remains outlawed, preventing a proper industry from forming. The exact same situation will develop in ACT, as it will remain illegal to sell cannabis in the territory.
A strange system has developed in Washington, D.C. whereby companies circumvent the ban on cannabis sales by selling people hats, juices, art, and other goods and throwing in marijuana as a “free gift” in the same transaction. However, the District cannot earn revenue from taxing a recreational cannabis industry.
The ACT decision creates a standoff between the federal and territorial government. Pettersson said that anyone using cannabis in ACT has a legal defence “under Commonwealth law if the use is excused or justified by state or territory law”.
The changes are likely to come into effect early next year, provided they are approved by the ACT’s health minister.