ACT cannabis laws come into effect on Friday, but they may not be what you hoped for
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New cannabis cultivation and possession laws come into effect in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Friday, January 31. But they’re not what most cannabis enthusiasts would be hoping for.
The ACT laws are a good first step, but they contradict federal laws that make cultivation and possession of cannabis a criminal offence. And it’s not clear whether these federal laws will continue to be enforced in the ACT.
The new laws also do little to regulate the supply of cannabis or its seeds. Instead, cannabis legislation and regulation should be approached in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco.
What do the ACT laws allow?
The new laws will allow territory residents aged 18 or older to grow cannabis plants at home. There will be a limit of two plants per person and four per household. And each person will be allowed to be in possession of no more than 50 grams of dried cannabis.
Cannabis plants can only be cultivated on private properties. And only by people who usually live there.
These laws won’t impact criminal offences for the large-scale cultivation of cannabis, or the supply of cannabis or cannabis seeds.
The commercial sale of cannabis via retail outlets or coffee shops will also remain prohibited.
However, the laws prompt the obvious question: if people are growing cannabis plants, where are they getting the seeds?
Although a person would not be prosecuted for possession or cultivation of a cannabis plant under the new ACT laws, the person providing the seeds or plants would be committing an offence.
What about the federal laws?
Considerable uncertainty still exists over potential conflicts between these fresh ACT laws and federal laws that criminalise the possession of cannabis.
Under the federal Criminal Code Act 1995, it’s an offence to possess a controlled drug. This can carry a penalty of two years imprisonment.
Attorney-General Christian Porter MP has publicly stated the federal offences will still have full effect in the ACT. As such, the Attorney-General’s office expects ACT police to enforce the federal criminal laws after January 31.
This will result in a bizarre situation where people growing plants at home in the ACT could be breaking federal laws despite being allowed to under local laws.
It’s hard to say how ACT Police will respond to people who use cannabis. The situation will require leadership within the ranks of law enforcement to decide the appropriate response.
The evidence supports decriminalisation
In most of Australia, the possession of cannabis is still a criminal offence. Given 34.8% of Australians aged over 14 have smoked cannabis at least once, many Australians have broken the law.
The economic costs to the justice system involved in prosecuting cannabis offences are considerable, even when diversion schemes are in place.
Diversion schemes typically require people caught with small amounts of cannabis to attend education or drug counselling. These schemes appear cost-effective when compared to imprisonment.
Research suggests prosecuting people for possession of small quantities of cannabis might actually be more harmful than the drug itself, leading to unemployment, relationships issues, and further problems with the law.
Criminalisation also creates a barrier to people seeking drug treatment and provides considerable profits for organised crime.
A step in the right direction
The ACT is leading Australia in progressive drug policy reform; the introduction of this law is another step in the right direction.
However, good laws should be unambiguous and clarify the inconsistencies with the federal law. They should also clarify the legal mechanisms for supply.
A variety of cannabis legalisation models exist overseas, ranging from commercial retail sale and cultivation, to small scale sanctioned cannabis social clubs, which operate in some parts of Spain and the Netherlands. These clubs are not-for-profit collectives where cannabis can be grown and used.
Canada and many states in the US have adopted a commercial retail model, where people can buy cannabis at a local store, similar to alcohol or tobacco. Australia should follow these countries in regulating cannabis in a similar way to how we regulate alcohol and tobacco.
Not recommended destinations for consumers of cannabis
There are many countries where cannabis is penalized. If you are habitual marijuana smoker, you have to take into account your holiday destinations. While, yes, there are very different punishments depending on the country you visit. Take note.
In many countries, there is no distinction between consumption and drug trafficking. Also, the drug laws apply in the territory where the crime occurred, and are binding for all persons present in a specific territory. Therefore, if a person is arrested in another country that is not their own, and there are very strict laws regarding the possession and consumption of cannabis, nor the embassy nor consulate of the country of origin of the detainee may make nothing to prevent the application of the law. So be very careful when choosing the country you visit. If not, you know, any doubt, nor take over, nor consume cannabis.
Countries with sentences for possession of marijuana
In this country, trafficking in large quantities of drugs is punishable with the death penalty by beheading. Cannabis consumption is punished with imprisonment, deportation or public flogging.
Smoking is prohibited and even talk of cannabis. The use and possession of marijuana lead to penalties of arrest.
At the antipodes it is also prohibited the use of marijuana. In this country there are very high jail if you get caught with cannabis seeds, although it seems that the law is softer with the consumption of small amounts. That is, you’d better not see you smoking cannabis in the pocket. However, for safety, keep in mind that if you visit Australia, better not take nor consume marijuana.
In this Caribbean island, if you are caught in possession of cannabis can fall you six months to two years in prison.
Cuba penalizes the possession of cannabis with jail.
Possession of drugs in this Asian country (and marijuana is considered as such) can lead to imprisonment and even capital punishment. If you are carrying more than 50 grams can condemn you to death. According to a report by Amnesty International, in 2011, they were carried out thousands of executions for drug possession and trafficking.
Possession of marijuana in China can lead to imprisonment and even capital punishment.
USA (except Denver and Washington)
It is the largest number of consumers and the leading producer of marijuana, but, paradoxically, its consumption is penalized. Penalties for possession or consumption of this substance vary from days to several years in prison. Denver and Washington in the recreational use is legal.
The minimum penalty if you get caught with any drugs is four years’ imprisonment. There are even beheading death sentences for possession and use of prohibited substances (marijuana is one of them). Moreover, in these countries not only consumption and possession is penalized but may also accuse you of complicity, harboring or entrapment.
Arab Emirates: The consumption of cannabis is punishable by death by decapitation.
It is one of the countries with the toughest legislation as far as cannabis is concerned. By selling a gram and a half of marijuana you can spend the rest of your life in jail. Not only that, but certain penalties for drug trafficking can take you to death.
In the champion country of freedom, consumption and possession of “Maria” is penalized. Even if you wear visibly shirt or sticker with the image of a marijuana leaf, they can get fined. Of course, if you show that you have not done with the intention of “consumer advocacy”, perhaps only you obtain a warning by the competent authority.
In France, consumption and possession of “Mary” is penalized.
In this country, sentences can range from economic sanctions to prison through flogging and even care, the death penalty. So, better to refrain from carrying or smoking cannabis if we chose to visit this country.
Iran: Sentencing of up to 100 lashes for possession of cannabis.
In this country they do not go around with half measures. The possession and use of marijuana is punishable by the death penalty by hanging.