Australian capital legalises cannabis for recreational use

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Australia’s capital has become the first part of the country to legalise the use of cannabis for personal recreational use. 

Under the new law, which takes effect on 31 January, adults in Canberra will be able to carry up to 50 grams (1.8oz) of dried cannabis and grow two cannabis plants.

The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly voted on Wednesday to legalise such possession of the drug for personal use. 


The opposition had voted against the legislation, arguing that the change would encourage more people to use marijuana and lead to more drug-induced psychosis.

However the assembly’s attorney general, Gordon Ramsay, said it was time to treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than an issue of “right and wrong”. 

Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer issued a joint statement, with the Take Control drug law reform campaign, congratulating the territory on the change.

“I welcome what I consider to be a courageous decision by the ACT parliament to put control into a completely uncontrolled environment,” the statement said.

The new law comes with a number of restrictions on the legal use of the drug; it requires that adults not use marijuana near children and to store it out of their reach; owners cannot sell or supply their marijuana to anyone else; and households are limited to growing no more than four plants, regardless of the number of occupants.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalised throughout Australia, but Canberra is the first of Australia’s eight states and territories to take the next step of legalising possession and cultivation.

But marijuana users in Canberra will still face some legal uncertainty because possession of small amounts of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

However, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory Andrew Barr said such prosecutions would require approval of federal prosecutors, who are “concerned with larger matters than the possession of a small amount of drug”.

Federal prosecutors have declined to provide the government with advice on the likelihood of such prosecutions.

Mr Barr said police charging Canberra marijuana smokers under federal law “would be outrageous”, but the smokers could cite the territory law in their defence before a judge.

Australian Federal Police Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said Canberra police had been advised to “focus on the traffickers”, but that officers were free to enforce federal law.

Medical marijuana has been available in Australia to patients with doctors’ prescriptions since 2017.

The Australian Capital Territory is renowned for its liberal policies towards illicit drugs.

In April, Canberra hosted Australia’s first pill-testing facility at a music festival so that drug users could have their illicit substances analysed for unexpected contaminates before taking them.

Additional reporting by PA

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