The Australian Capital Territory is poised to legalize cannabis for recreational use after a bill gained widespread support from the region’s legislators.
The ACT is a federal district containing the Australian capital of Canberra, similar to the District of Columbia in the US. It has a population of 420,000 and it houses all the country’s leading politicians.
Labour Party backbencher Michael Pettersson has launched a bill called the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018. Its aim is to make it legal for residents in the territory to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis or four plants for personal use.
A consultation period began in September and finished on Thursday last week. Pettersson will now introduce the bill to the Assembly tomorrow and he claims he has widespread support.
There are 25 votes up for grabs in the ACT so he needs to win a majority of 13 for the bill to pass. The Labour Party said it is united behind the bill, which would give it 12 votes. It needs just one more to succeed and Green Party parliamentarian Shane Rattenbury is expected to cast the deciding vote in favour of the bill.
He said he might suggest some amendments before agreeing, but he declared he supports it as a matter of principle. Cannabis is already legal for medicinal purposes in Australia, and the Greens are in favour of legalizing marijuana for personal use in order to keep people out of the criminal justice system.
The bill will be tabled tomorrow and legislators will have until February to mull it over. It’s then expected to be signed into law, allowing people to legally smoke weed in the political heartland of Australia. That would be seen as a giant stride towards the entire country following in Canada’s footsteps and legalizing cannabis for recreational use, opening up a huge potential market.
Pettersson said he has received 80 submissions from people or groups about his bill and that 75 are in favour of legalizing cannabis. The local press is now reporting that it’s likely the law will be passed due to the widespread support it has received. ACT chief minister Andrew Barr reiterated his support for the bill and said he believes Australia will eventually change its federal law to allow marijuana for personal use across the country.