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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3869 ..


Clause 6.

MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Social Inclusion and Equality, Minister for Tertiary Education, Minister for Tourism and Special Events and Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment) (3.28): I move amendment No 5 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 3919].

This amendment addresses two issues: compatibility with commonwealth law, and distinguishing between fresh and dry cannabis. Firstly, to improve compatibility with commonwealth law, this amendment retains offences for possession and cultivation, but with an exception for persons over 18 years of age. This will mean that the ACT still has a relevant offence in legislation, meaning that we have not vacated the space with regard to cannabis offences, thereby reducing the likelihood of the commonwealth Criminal Code being drawn on for possession offences in the territory. Despite an offence still existing in ACT law, the practical outcome is that the possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for personal use will be effectively legal for adults.

Secondly, distinguishing between fresh and dry cannabis was considered necessary to achieve the intent of the bill with regard to allowing individuals to cultivate their own cannabis. Dried cannabis is defined as cannabis that has been subjected to a drying process and will be subject to a 50 gram limit, in line with the current simple cannabis offence notice settings. Cannabis that has been harvested but not yet dried will be subject to a limit of 150 grams.

There is a Greens amendment that seeks to allow a 150 gram limit for persons with certain medical conditions. The government is of the view that this conflates medicinal cannabis, which is produced, prescribed and used according to stringent guidelines, with homegrown cannabis. We believe that this is a potentially dangerous confluence and that it is not a matter for this proposed act.

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (3.30): We will support the amendment, but there are some complexities and difficulties here. Firstly, in terms of the weighing issue, exactly what is dry and what is wet will potentially be the cause of some potential dispute down the track. How do you determine what has been freshly cropped and what has not? That remains to be seen.

The other part of this amendment is the attempted legal workaround. I think it is evident that this is creating ambiguity. It is a very difficult issue for police officers to enforce on the ground. Also, I think that it is creating confusion in the community. As we saw earlier in this place, the Greens are saying that we are not legalising cannabis; the Labor Party are saying that we are legalising cannabis. If the two parties supporting this bill cannot even agree on what is actually happening in this place today, and are coming up with convoluted legal workarounds to try to deconflict this with federal legislation, it risks putting cannabis users who think they are doing the right thing and police in a potentially compromising position. That said, there are few alternatives other than being in direct conflict with federal law, so this is perhaps the best worst option.


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