Last week the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise the possession of cannabis for personal use.
As of 31 January 2020, an adult in the ACT can legally possess a small quantity of cannabis. While the possession of cannabis has become legal, consuming it in public will remain a crime.
What will become legal?
Once the new legislation comes into effect, any adult in the ACT will be allowed to:
- Be in possession of 50 grams of dry cannabis or 150 grams of wet cannabis;
- Grow up to two cannabis plants on their property (maximum of 4 per household if more than 1 adult resides in the home).
Rules relating to consumption
Cannabis consumption will remain prohibited in public places. Adults will also be obligated to ensure any cannabis possessed is inaccessible to children.
Could you still be arrested?
The new legislation replaces existing territory laws. However, cannabis possession is still prohibited under Commonwealth legislation. This means that there is still a risk that individuals caught in possession of 50 gram of cannabis could be prosecuted if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions deemed it appropriate to do so.
Is it different for medicinal cannabis?
Individuals seeking to use cannabis for medicinal purposes must still apply for a licence pursuant to the Narcotic Drugs Act. The Narcotic Drugs Act contains licensing and permit schemes for the cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. Medicinal licences are regulated by The Office of Drug Control Centre (ODC).
However, in reality the licensing scheme has little impact in terms of improving access to medicinal cannabis. It can be extremely difficult to acquire a cannabis permit, with the ODC’s website admitting that the set of requirements that a person must fulfil to get a licence is ‘extensive’.
People are required to satisfy a ‘fit and proper person test’ before being granted a licence. They must also disclose their criminal history.
Australia has been relatively slow to acknowledge the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis usage. However, this could change if the nation’s first medicinal trial is successful.
Cannabis possession in NSW
Possessing cannabis is a crime in NSW. If you are caught in possession of cannabis you may be charged with a criminal offence and, if convicted, it will appear on your criminal record.
However, if you have been caught with 15 grams or less you may be eligible to receive a cannabis caution. If you receive a caution you will avoid being charged for the offence. This means that you will not have to attend court and will not have a drug conviction on your criminal record.
Charged with a drug offence?
Being convicted of a drug offence can have serious implications on your livelihood. It can affect your employment and your freedom to travel. If you have been charged with a drug offence it is vital that you seek legal advice from an experienced criminal lawyer.
An experienced criminal lawyer may be able to persuade the court not to record a conviction.