The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has become the first municipality in Australia to legalize the possession, use, and cultivation of small quantities of marijuana. Under the new law, adults in the region will be able to grow up to two plants each, and possess up to 50 grams per person. However, there is a limit of four plants per household.
The law will not take effect immediately but will become official starting on January 31, 2020.
However, the situation is very similar to that in the United States, where the law has been changed locally, but at a federal level, it is still illegal, under what is known as the Commonwealth laws in Australia.
It is unclear how the superior government will react to its territories going against their policy, but many residents of the ACT fear that they could still face legal consequences from the Australian government for using cannabis, even after the plant is legalized locally. According to ABC, ACT police officers will still have the authority to arrest people for cannabis if they want to, leaving much more room for prosecution than legalization bills in the United States have.
Growing, possessing and smoking marijuana will soon be legal in the nation's capital. The ACT Parliament has passed a bill, permitting cannabis for personal use. It takes effect in January, but critics say it'll lead to increased drug use. https://t.co/Tj7sWSTMEU @telester #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/8Ab7OgX6jA
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) September 25, 2019
If politicians in the commonwealth are seriously opposed to the legalization efforts in the ACT, they will still have the power to cancel the bill out through their own legislation.
Many cannabis activists in the ACT say that the bill does not go far enough, and continues to put cannabis users at risk of arrest.
Local police have promised to play nice and go along with the law for the most part. A police representative said that they will not focus on the average cannabis user but instead go after the drug trade and organized crime that may be involved with trafficking large amounts.
However, there are a few things that will still probably get the average cannabis user in trouble in the ACT, like smoking in public or anywhere near children, or growing plants that are not hidden from the public.
The commonwealth government has also stated that while they do not entirely recognize this decision, they will consider the new law if or when a resident of the ACT faces prosecution.
The bill was initially brought forward by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson, who says that he did the best he could with this legislation, and believes that this will be an important first step towards a fuller legalization policy. Pettersson eventually wants to see full-scale commercialization of a recreational market for cannabis in ACT, and hopefully the rest of Australia.
Pettersson says that creating a recreational market will allow customers to obtain the plant legally and would take a huge revenue source away from organized crime and drug cartels.
After legalization proved to be successful in many of the areas that it was implemented, the idea is now starting to spread all over the world, although different areas seem to be moving more cautiously than others. In the case of Australia, hopefully, this is a big first step towards a broader legalization policy that includes a commercial market.