Having legalized medical marijuana since 2016, Australia has always been considered one of the more obvious countries to consider legalizing recreational pot. Despite an often rather conservative government, the country is generally among the leading more progressive nations. Additionally, with great beaches the country also has an extensive surf culture, one which consists also of many potheads. Having a toke is rather common in Australia, and also very popular among tens of thousands of traveling students who seasonally work in the catering or agricultural sector.
But until now, legalization — or even concrete plans to launch a referendum about it like New Zealand has — has stayed out.
But two days ago first steps towards legalization of recreational marijuana were made in the country’s capital, Canberra, as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) legalized private possession and cultivation of recreational marijuana. Yes, Canberra is the capital of Australia and not Sydney or Melbourne.
Canberra Passes Law to Posses and Grow Marijuana Privately
The new law, which is limited to the Australian Capital Territory and can still be overruled by the criminal courts, allows the Adult residents of Canberra — aged 18 and over — to possess up to 50 grams (almost two ounces) and to grow two plants per person, with a maximum of four per household.
Possession and cultivation are limited to private personal consumption. Selling the product to others is prohibited. Smoking near minors will be prohibited as well. A cap of 150 grams of freshly harvested weed is implemented as well.
So far no distribution nor retail framework is available yet, neither is it known whether the ACT has actual plans to move ahead designing legislation to support legal retail of recreational marijuana.
The law is expected to go into effect end January 2020. Importantly the ACT’s Attorney General did emphasize that the new law offers citizens a legal safe haven, and defense, within the Australian Capital Territory’s but citizens in possession can still be prosecuted federally.
The Australian Capital Territory has previously already locally decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Few other jurisdictions operate under a “at discretion” policy allowing police officers to make the decision whether to fine or arrest.
Of course, the law has seen its fair share of prohibitionists opposing it, but it expected to pass ahead with only limited amendments and not to be opposed, or overruled, by the federal government.
Given that the ACT already operated a decriminalized legislation, few agency problems are expected and the ACT police has confirmed they will carry out the new law as required, as well as assisting in finding how both the regional and federal laws can comply with each other.
But The First Step
Scott Morrison - photo by Kristy Robinson
With rather high consumption numbers, and cannabis the most popular drug in Australia, it is now only a matter of time until the country further legalizes, possibly federally even. In a political climate with regularly changing governments, there is no doubt that sooner rather than later electoral campaigning will include the drive to legalize as legal recreational marijuana has become a hot topic, a generally backed topic in so-called First World countries. But it may require another government first.
After Canada legalized recreational marijuana the current Prime Minister of Australia, liberal Scott Morrison, expressed that he had no intentions to follow suit. Which isn’t strange considering Morrison’s average international political swinging between a bromance with Trump, recognizing West Jerusalem as capital of Israel, his abysmal human rights track record while Immigration Minister, his opposition to same-sex marriages yet calling out China’s horrible human rights application with the Uighur.
Since 2016, we know stranger things have to be expected than a politician pulling a 180 degree turn to #EndProhibition and gain more votes. Especially, with high support for recreational marijuana among the younger Australian demographics.
After the ACT’s regional legalization, it is now undoubtedly a matter of when not if in Australia.