(Feb. 13, 2020) On January 31, 2020, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) legislation allowing the possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use, which had been passed by the ACT Parliament in September 2019, came into effect. The Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Act 2019 (ACT) amended the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 (ACT) to remove penalties for persons over the age of 18 years for the possession of up to 50 grams of dry cannabis or 150 grams of “fresh cannabis,” or for growing up to two cannabis plants per person, with a maximum of four plants per household.
In addition, under the Amendment Act, it is now illegal to
- smoke or use cannabis in a public place
- expose a child or young person to cannabis smoke
- store cannabis where children can reach it
- grow cannabis using hydroponics or artificial cultivation
- grow cannabis plants where they can be accessed by the public.
Other ACT cannabis offenses also remain in effect, including selling, sharing, or giving cannabis as a gift to another person; driving with any amount of cannabis in the driver’s system; and being under the age of 18 and growing or possessing cannabis.
The ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to legalize the use and growth of cannabis for personal reasons. In some other jurisdictions, certain minor cannabis offenses may be dealt with through infringement notices, and some allow the application of a diversion system for low-level offending. The Commonwealth (federal) government has stated that it will not intervene to overturn the new ACT law, despite the fact that it contradicts federal legislation criminalizing the possession of cannabis. However, it appears that Commonwealth drug offenses, such as those contained in part 9, division 308 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), could still be used to charge people for possession of cannabis in the ACT.