So weed isn’t illegal in Canberra anymore. As of today, new marijuana legislation passed by the ACT Parliament back in September comes into law, and with a very confusing set of new parameters for bonglords in the nation’s capital to navigate.
So what’s the long and short of it all? Here’s a brief explainer.
First off, those of you excitedly loading up the car with snacks and Godspeed You! Black Emperor records expecting to roll into Canberra this weekend like it’s suddenly become Lake Burley Spliffin’ might wanna consider unpacking. Weed isn’t, in the strictest sense of the phrase, “legal.” There’s no weed dispensaries popping up around town, you won’t be able to buy brain-melting edibles from a tastefully decorated shop, nor will any FreeChoice Tobacco store suddenly feel the need to stop calling their range of alien skull bongs “water pipes.”
What the new legislation does, however, is remove any criminal or financial penalties for individual possession of small amounts of weed, as well as the cultivation of a small amount of weed plants for personal use only.
From today, possession and use of up to 50 grams of weed per person will not attract a criminal charge or a monetary fine. Similarly, individuals (non-hydroponically) growing up to four plants per household, at a maximum of two per person over the of 18, will also not be charged or fined.
So it’s not a legalisation as such, as it is more a decriminalisation or, perhaps more aptly, a disincentivisaiton for authorities to prosecute low-level cases.
Use of weed is also not permitted outside of the house, and people are only allowed to use the weed they themselves grow.
Crucially, supply of cannabis remains a criminal offence under the new laws. And this is where it gets really quite murky.
It remains an offence to give, sell, or share either plants or seeds. This means territory law prohibits the sale of marijuana – be it dried, plant, or seed form. Which means while you can grow a plant legally in your own home, it is illegal to buy the seeds to grow it with.
“Supply” also covers all forms of sharing, oddly enough meaning that the simple act of passing a joint remains a criminal act in Canberra.
Punters are also, quite obviously, unable to take any weed they’ve grown themselves into NSW, where state law there strictly prohibits possession.
On top of all that, the new Territory laws also stand in contradiction to Federal law, which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance. At this stage it’s unclear as to whether or not the Federal Government will intervene in Territory business, or whether Federal authorities will be directed to pursue low-level marijuana possession cases in the ACT; a particularly tricky situation given the ACT police force falls under the watch of the Australian Federal Police.
But that, ultimately, is the long and short of it: In Canberra, you can now smoke weed from a plant you grew at home without fear of criminal penalty. But there’s no way to get the plant without committing a crime, and you can’t share it with anyone or take it outside of the house.
Still, it’s certainly not nothing.Image: Getty Images / Marc Piscotty