Canberra Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson said he would be concerned if his Federal counterpart tried to overrule the ACT Government’s cannabis laws, but says that the Canberra Liberals will overturn the controversial bill if they are elected in the 2020 ACT Election.
Commonwealth Attorney-General Christian Porter has the power to overturn the ACT Government’s cannabis laws, which allows the individual possession of up to 50 grams of dry cannabis, 150 grams of fresh cannabis and two plants, prompting ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay to write to Mr Porter on Monday (14 October), warning him not to overrule or intervene in the ACT’s “democratic process”.
“The Act has been passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly as a self-governing body with the authority to make laws for people in the ACT,” the letter reads.
“I reiterate my previous advice that this legislation expresses the will of the ACT people and convey my deep concern should the Commonwealth seek in any way to overrule and intervene in the democratic processes of the ACT.”
Mr Hanson said he has spoken with the Federal Government about the ACT’s cannabis laws but said he had not asked them to intervene.
“I have had some brief conversations but I have not asked them to intervene in any sense,” Mr Hanson told Region Media. “The correspondence from the Federal Health Minister and the Federal Attorney-General has not been at our request and they did that entirely independent of us.
“I am very strong on territory rights and I don’t like it when the Federal Government overrules ACT legislation.”
But Mr Hanson said it was “nonsense” for Mr Ramsay to describe the cannabis laws, which will come into effect on 31 January 2020, as the “will of the people”.
“The fact that the Government had to move 15 amendments indicates how poorly this bill was drafted,” Mr Hanson said. “This bill is more about an individual MLA trying to get political attention and notoriety, rather than a compelling need for change.
“This was really a squabble between Labor and the Greens to see who would be the first to legalise cannabis.
“There was really no evidence put forward by anyone that this was a good idea. Medical groups, lawyers and even the Australian Federal Police Association considered the bill to be flawed from both a health and legal aspect.”
Mr Hanson said a number of people have contacted his office to share their “harrowing stories” of the effect that cannabis has had on their own families. He is concerned that the ACT Government has “condoned cannabis and made it more available for young people”, describing the new bill as reckless.
“We are going to have a situation where more young people are potentially in harm’s way and I am really disappointed that the government has gone down this track,” Mr Hanson said.
Mr Hanson said the Canberra Liberals would reinstate the current legislation if they form government next year because the current laws “strikes the right balance”.
“We don’t want to see people with small amounts of cannabis for recreational use getting caught up in the legal system,” Mr Hanson said.
“The current bill strikes the right balance between making sure that cannabis is still seen as a potentially dangerous substance while ensuring the legal response to that is impunitive.
“We would like to revert to the existing laws which have been working very satisfactorily for quite a period of time, and we will do that if we form government.”