In a First for Australia, the Capital Legalizes Recreational Marijuana
SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s capital on Wednesday became the first jurisdiction in the country to legalize the recreational possession and cultivation of marijuana, a move that runs counter to federal laws that can carry prison terms for personal use of the drug.
Passage of the measure, which came after months of debate over policy, legal and health issues, echoed efforts in the United States, where more than 10 states have legalized recreational use of marijuana even as it remains illegal under federal law.
The new law in the Australian Capital Territory, which encompasses the capital city, Canberra, allows residents over 18 to possess up to 50 grams of dried marijuana and grow two plants per person or four per household at a time. Supplying the drug to other people remains illegal.
“The passage of this legislation is an Australian first,” Michael Pettersson, a Labor Party lawmaker who was a driving force behind the bill, said in a statement. “It will work to reduce the harm of drugs in our community by reducing the stigma of drug use and encouraging people to seek help without fear of arrest.”
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit recreational drug in Australia. In a 2016 government survey, about a third of Australians over age 14 said they had used it, with about 10 percent saying they had used it in the previous 12 months.
Australia approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 2016, but the country has not moved in the direction of the small number of other countries, like Canada, that have legalized recreational use on a national level.
Before the Australian Capital Territory passed its legalization measure, possession of small amounts of marijuana had been decriminalized there and in a few other jurisdictions, giving police officers the discretion to issue fines instead of making arrests.
In other jurisdictions, possession is still a crime, though warnings are usually given to first-time offenders.
Under federal law, recreational possession carries a potential penalty of two years in prison. The Australian Capital Territory legislation provides a legal defense under local law for adults who possess marijuana but does not remove the risk of arrest under federal law, said Gordon Ramsay, the territory’s attorney general.
The final legislation, which is likely to go into effect at the end of January, included a number of amendments. They restrict cultivation of plants to private property, make it an offense to smoke near minors, require proper storage away from children and add a separate weight limit of 150 grams, or about five ounces, for freshly cultivated marijuana.
The federal government has moved to overturn major legislative changes by states or territories in the past, though it is unclear whether it will do so in this case. In 2013, it successfully argued in court to reverse legislation in the capital territory that allowed same-sex couples to marry. The federal government then legalized same-sex marriage in 2017.
Opponents of the capital’s cannabis bill said that while the amendments would limit some of the harm, it would lead to higher consumption of marijuana, which some researchers have linked to an increased risk of psychosis, and more cases of people driving under the influence.
The legislation could lead to a “whole bunch of perverse outcomes,” Jeremy Hanson, the attorney general for the conservative-leaning Liberal Party, said during debate on the measure. “The current laws as they work are effective.”
The capital branch of the Australian Medical Association said that use of marijuana could lead to chronic health problems, but that the risk was low and that those who used the drug occasionally were unlikely to be affected, according to a government inquiry into the issue.
“It doesn’t appear to be the sort of legislation or policy change that results in the sky falling down,” said Dr. David Caldicott, an emergency medicine consultant who supported the bill.
The nation’s capital has been at the forefront of drug reform policy in the past, including testing pills at festivals, Dr. Caldicott added. “Rather than causing a shift in cannabis consumption in Australia,” he said, “it might create a broader conversational environment” around the policies governing it.
The Australian Capital Territory police said in a statement that they would coordinate with the local government and other agencies to carry out the new legislation, including working out how it intersects with federal law.
The move echoed efforts in the United States, where some states have legalized recreational use of marijuana even as it has remained illegal under federal law.
Is It Legal To Smoke Marijuana in Australia?
Australia’s favourite recreational drug, next to alcohol, is marijuana.
With legal cannabis being available, Australia keeps breaking all the records with the number of new patients doubling each month.
So with medicinal or personal weed, is it legal to smoke across Australia?
For patients with a prescription in Australia, you can smoke marijuana in the comforts of your home. Weed for personal use is still illegal, and if you’re caught smoking, you may receive a fine. Medicinal cannabis is legal, but recreational (personal) use is only legal in Canberra, ACT.
Table of Contents.
Let’s break down the different rules around smoking weed in each state in Australia.
Is It Legal To Smoke In Sydney?
Sydney is Australia’s largest marijuana consumption region. Whether medicinal or for personal use, New South Wales has Australia’s largest public use and marijuana support.
Patients can smoke, vape, bake, or take cannabis oil in Sydney, NSW.
Even with a prescription, you will need to follow the public smoking rules.
Learn more about Sydney’s smoking marijuana rules.
Is It Legal To Smoke In Melbourne?
Melbourne, Victoria, is poised to become Australia’s weed hub and the next legalised region for personal marijuana use.
The largest and most innovative cannabis companies are promoting legal weed use.
Smoking marijuana in Melbourne, or Victoria, is legal with a medical prescription.
If caught smoking weed for personal use, there may be a small fine between $100-200.
There are a lot of different rules in place until Australians can legally smoke marijuana for personal use.
Learn more about Melbourne’s smoking marijuana rules.
Is It Legal To Smoke In Brisbane & The Gold Coast?
South East Queensland has Australia’s largest and most successful cannabis farms.
Whether you are in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, there is a large amount of public support for legal weed and marijuana.
Currently, you can only smoke or vape cannabis with a medical prescription.
If you are caught smoking weed recreationally, then you may receive a fine.
After Victoria and Canberra, Queensland is positioned to be the next state to legalise the legal smoking of marijuana.
Learn more about Brisbane and the Gold Coast’s smoking marijuana rules.
Is It Legal To Smoke In Perth?
Perth, Western Australia has a lot of public and government support for legalising cannabis.
With the Little Green Pharma, and other cannabis companies, Western Australians are eagerly awaiting legal marijuana.
Currently, a GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis that you can smoke, vape, or take as oil drops.
Smoking recreational weed is still illegal at the moment. If caught, there may be a fee, but the local government and Justice system provide Drug Diversion programs to avoid criminal charges.
Learn more about Perth’s smoking marijuana rules.
Is It Legal To Smoke In Canberra?
Canberra, ACT, is the lucky region in Australia where people can smoke, vape, bake, and take any form of cannabis for recreational use.
It is technically “decriminalised”, but this means that you won’t receive a criminal penalty for smoking weed.
You will, however, need to follow the public smoking laws to avoid any fines.
Canberra, ACT, is the first region in all of Australia to allow legal weed smoking, vaping, edibles, oil and everything else for personal use.
James is an experienced writer and legal cannabis advocate in Australia. He answers all the questions about business, legalisation and medicinal cannabis.
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Find out the rules and laws with Cannabis in Australia. Learn if and where you can legally smoke cannabis.