The Australian Capital Territory’s cannabis reform laws, which remove criminal penalties and fines for low-level possession and use, are now in effect, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. The law was approved last September despite opposition from the federal government and a United Nations warning that the law violates international drug treaties.
Under the law, Canberrans 18-and-older can grow up to two cannabis plants in their homes, up to four plants total per household, and possess up to 150 grams of “wet” cannabis or 50 grams of “dry” cannabis. Plants must be grown in a garden or pot – not hydroponically – but individuals may not give, share, or sell the plants or seeds. There is no legal way to obtain the seeds in Australia.
“If you have some marijuana or you have a plant, someone, at some time, committed a criminal offence. You didn’t get the seeds from divine intervention, and whoever gave them to you committed the offense of trafficking.” – Michael Kukulies-Smith, chair of the ACT Law Society’s criminal law committee, to ABC
The law does not allow any sharing or gifting and that includes simply sharing a joint, which remains a crime of supplying a prohibited substance and carries a maximum penalty of A$80,000 and up to five years in jail.
Kukulies-Smith noted that ACT Police still have the authority to make arrests in the region under federal laws, which still prohibit cannabis possession and use. He said that citizens “don’t really have any understanding of how the police’s top brass” will handle the situation.
“Individual police officers are going to have a lot of discretion, unfortunately,” he said in the report. “If you have no prior convictions and aren’t usually in trouble with the police, you’ve very unlikely to get into trouble. But if you have priors or you upset an officer, they might decide to use Commonwealth law instead.”
The ACT is the first region in Australia to legalize cannabis in any form. Prior to the reforms, any adults caught with a plant in the territory would have been subject to a A$160 fine.
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