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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 495 ..


work this out. While a cannabis plant can be any size, it is no longer a "plant" if it weighs more than 50 grams. I cannot quite work out when a plant stops being a plant and starts being a product under the legislation. And is the 50 grams wet or dry? Is it the whole plant? Is it with the roots, the leaves or only the heads?

I would also like to point out that some cannabis plants can grow to be quite large. However defined, a large plant would be more than 50 grams. So I think that there is going to have to be a bit more thought about this as part of Mr Pettersson's bill. I and the Greens support this bill. I understand that my colleague Mr Rattenbury has amendments that he will move on behalf of the Greens. As he pointed out, the Greens have moved in the Assembly, but not yet successfully, for legislation in relation to cannabis for medical use.

I am really pleased that at last it seems very likely the Assembly will take the step towards treating people equally, dealing with any health issues compassionately, not making criminals out of people for no good reason, and stopping black market profiteering from the sale of a drug that does not cause the issues that many legal drugs cause.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee—Minister for City Services, Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Roads) (3.30): I rise today to speak in support of the bill brought forward by Mr Pettersson regarding the legalisation of cannabis use.

The ACT is the most progressive and forward-thinking jurisdiction in Australia, and so is our approach in relation to drugs. We support a harm minimisation approach, not just because it is the most progressive thing to do but because it is evidence based and supports the best outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 35 per cent of Australians will try cannabis within their lifetime, according to the 2016 national drug household survey.

This legislation has a simple but powerful premise: to minimise the unnecessary harm of entry into the justice system for cannabis possession. A person possessing small quantities of cannabis should not have their life ruined because of a criminal charge.

Drug dependence is a health and a social issue. The evidence on the health effects of cannabis is mixed. However, it is generally accepted that there are risks for brain development, memory and other mental functions, and excessive cannabis use is correlated with psychosis, particularly for people with existing mental health issues. I accept that these are risks, but they do not mean that the drug should be illegal. The very fact that cannabis presents a health risk is exactly why it should be regarded as an issue for the health system rather than the justice system. Charging people with a criminal offence for possessing small quantities of cannabis will not help them overcome their health issues, and may in fact be a detriment to their mental health.

As Australia's most progressive jurisdiction, we must stop confusing health with criminal culpability. That approach has not worked. Professor Nicole Lee of the National Drug Research Institute and University of New South Wales Professor


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