Canberra supports legalising cannabis says local Labor MLA while health expert believes legalisation could nip problems in the bud

Lachlan Roberts 23 November 2018 48

Under the bill, Canberrans possessing up to 50g of cannabis or growing four cannabis plants would no longer be committing a criminal offence. File photo.

ACT Labor MLA Michael Pettersson says his bill to legalise cannabis for personal use is gathering “overwhelming” support from the community, while a local health expert believes the legalising of cannabis could have a positive effect.

Mr Pettersson will introduce a bill to legalise cannabis for personal use during the next sitting week which would mean Canberrans possessing up to 50g of cannabis or growing four cannabis plants would no longer be committing a criminal offence.

The Labor MLA said the sale of cannabis and cannabis-related products would remain illegal but his Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018 will remove cannabis as a prohibited substance in the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989.

Mr Pettersson said recent Government research has shown widespread support for cannabis legalisation – with 54 per cent of Canberrans supporting the legalisation of cannabis for personal use with only 27 per cent of Canberrans opposed.

“This shows that Canberrans are overwhelmingly in favour of sensible changes to our drug laws like legalising small amounts of cannabis for personal use,” he said. “Cannabis legalisation is not a radical idea. I don’t think anyone should have their life ruined with a criminal conviction for using small amounts of cannabis.

“I think our current drug laws don’t make a lot of sense. I think it’s time we take a long, hard look at whether or not our drug laws are having the effect we want them to have and if they’re not we should have the courage to change them.

“I think Canberra is ready for a sensible conversation about our cannabis laws.”

Mr Pettersson believes there is a lot of evidence that shows cannabis is actually safer than more socially-accepted drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

“If you look at the total disease burden on our health care system, nine per cent is caused by tobacco and 0.1 per cent is caused by cannabis,” he said. “If you look at the short-term effects of these substances, our hospitals are filled on the weekends with alcohol-fuelled violence while it is rare to see cannabis-related violence.”

Mr Pettersson believes his proposed bill does not affect Federal drug trafficking laws and will not create a marketplace for growing and cultivating large quantities of cannabis for commercial sale. He said the model is a step forward from decriminalisation that is currently in place in the ACT.

The possession of under 25 grams of cannabis for recreational use has been decriminalised in the ACT since 1992 through the Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON) scheme and the limit was later increased to 50 grams.

Dr David Caldicott, the clinical lead at the ANU’s Australian Medicinal Cannabis Observatory, said a regulated market of cannabis could limit availability to underage consumers and could undermine the illicit drug market in the ACT.

Dr Caldicott said the legalising of cannabis could have a flow-on effect into the illicit drug market and organised crime. He said there is no proof that a regulated market would lead to more consumption of cannabis.

“From a public health perspective, there are merits to an argument of a regulated market. It is likely to be met by howls of abuse from more conservative commentators who probably don’t understand the policy implications,” he said.

“The likelihood is that overall it will reduce the harm from drugs. Very few people would argue that increased availability of cannabis would make the city a healthier environment but it is entirely possible that regulating the environment will make cannabis less available.

“If it is good, responsible and forcible legislation, then it might be beneficial to the local population.”

Dr Caldicott said legalising cannabis would keep young people out of the criminal justice system for behaviour the community believes should not be punished so severely.

“Whatever reduces the numbers of foolish young people, who are notorious for making poor lifestyle choices, from destroying their entire lives for what is essentially a trivial crime is a good thing,” he said.

“I think that the most important thing to come out of this a fairly sophisticated conversation that needs to be had.”

Do you think the personal use of cannabis should be legalised? Let us know your thoughts or concerns in the comments below.

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48 Responses to Canberra supports legalising cannabis says local Labor MLA while health expert believes legalisation could nip problems in the bud
Robbie DeRoo Robbie DeRoo 4:34 pm 29 Dec 18

Brad Adams Brad Adams 3:32 am 30 Nov 18

I don’t really like the idea. But is the current fact that is illegal really stopping anyone from using it??

It still needs to be illegal to grow it and need to be regulated the same as alcohol and tobacco.

I can’t say I support it, but I really don’t have an argument against it.

    Karin Cerasani Karin Cerasani 6:08 am 30 Nov 18

    Brad Adams - I think the lack of access does stop people from using it. I recently had some in Alaska where it is legal and safe to obtain, but here I wouldn’t know where to find it without getting into a dodgy situation so I haven’t tried.

    Also, because of the legalities, I think many people would find there is too much at risk (job, public perception from family and friends) to use.

    Brad Adams Brad Adams 9:31 am 30 Nov 18

    Karin Cerasani maybe it has deterred you. However not my experience, it hasn’t deterred a vast majority of people. It’s pretty simple, banning stuff just doesn’t work.

Luke Errington Luke Errington 3:59 pm 27 Nov 18

It should just be taken off the illicit drugs registrar. Any thing other than that is just a waste of time and creates more laws and legislation. Until the police have a proper Drug testing kit and a standered like .05 for alcohol any legalisation will create allot of un licensed drivers who had a joint at home on a Saturday night and got pulled up on Monday going to work, Its my understanding that arrests have increased in the American states that allow legal cannabis growing. Canada and America have some silly laws around it and a mix of laws depending on your state and I'm not one who thinks that path is the right one. Didn't South African courts just make it Not a crime or something recently as well? The medicinal cannabis laws are just not working for those who need it and this needs to change fast.

Arika Errington Arika Errington 6:20 pm 26 Nov 18

Sherry Fletcher William A Errington Luke Errington Cassie Nicolitis Gabby Ritter

everyone might have to move here LOL

Mark Ryan Mark Ryan 2:53 pm 26 Nov 18

No...thin end of the wedge. The drug is illegal. Same boat as pill testing condones drug use.

    Joe O'Calaghan Joe O'Calaghan 9:00 pm 26 Nov 18

    So you would suggest we stick with the current setup mark?

    Alastair Sim Alastair Sim 1:04 pm 18 Jan 19

    Mark Ryan is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed. "The drug is illegal" - that is exactly what this bill is going to change.

justin heywood justin heywood 2:51 pm 26 Nov 18

Contrary to the opinion expressed by some commenters, there IS a link between cannabis use and psychosis (as always on the internet, if you want the truth, look it up on reputable websites)

Most sensible people recognise there’s nothing wrong with the occasional joint, but then most people would also know some heavy users from their youth who have gone on to schizophrenia and other disorders.

But if legalising cannabis use results in better control of its use, I’m all for it.

Nalini Haynes Nalini Haynes 2:14 pm 26 Nov 18

this is not enough. The cannabis market, especially cannabis oil for medicinal use, needs to be regulated. Also, there needs to be a legal means of procuring supply or people will be forced to continue associating with criminals to procure medicinal products.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:08 am 26 Nov 18

It will give new meaning to the acronym CBR.

It will now stand for Cannabis, Booze & Rainbows.

Laura De Angelis Laura De Angelis 9:11 am 26 Nov 18

Yeah follow Canada! canada knows what they’re doing!

Garry Drennan Garry Drennan 12:13 am 26 Nov 18

About damn time.

Eoin Wotkinz Eoin Wotkinz 11:14 pm 25 Nov 18

That’s $1000 in the schoolyard

Matt Donnelly Matt Donnelly 10:48 pm 25 Nov 18

The Liberal Democrats are the only party in the federal parliament taking real action on cannabis legalisation in Australia. The Lib Dems’ bill to legalise cannabis has already been costed, introduced to parliament, reviewed by two Senate Committees, and debated.;fileType=application/pdf

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 10:30 pm 25 Nov 18

I thought it was ‘decriminalized’ to have up to 3 plants in the ACT

    Karin Cerasani Karin Cerasani 8:49 am 26 Nov 18

    Ann Chaplin my understanding is that if you get caught with only a small amount, you are fined and required to undergo drug counseling.

    Decriminalised just means you don’t get hit with a criminal record as a result.

    Arika Errington Arika Errington 6:19 pm 26 Nov 18

    Ann Chaplin i understand it’s also up to the officer that ‘catches’ you. A mate got done with 7g and hit with court, then got a $25 fine by the judge who thought it was a waste of time. 🤷🏽‍♀️

    Arika Errington Arika Errington 6:23 pm 26 Nov 18

    Ann Chaplin helps if I read the article in its entirety lol

    “The possession of under 25 grams of cannabis for recreational use has been decriminalised in the ACT since 1992 through the Simple Cannabis Offence Notice (SCON) scheme and the limit was later increased to 50 grams.”

    Well I learnt something new today lol

    Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 6:55 pm 26 Nov 18

    Arika Biara Errington thank you for that,it’s a bit tougher than I thought.

    Jim Badlose Jim Badlose 4:10 pm 29 Nov 18

    Decriminalisation means they have other means of punishment other than a court system. It’s still illegal.

Frank Reising Frank Reising 7:55 pm 25 Nov 18

When will that realise e cigs are actually a good thing and legailze the use of them? I have stopped smoking for over 2 years now

Randy Goldberg Randy Goldberg 3:53 pm 25 Nov 18

And alcohol is alcohol so why can you drive with a certain amount of it in your system when it is zero tolerance on drugs?

    Joe Coppin Joe Coppin 1:01 am 26 Nov 18

    I think the answer is that there is a means to and a metric to calculate the amount of alcohol and no such thing for cannabis.

    Personally the zero tolerance on roads is the only acceptable option until they can breath test volumes.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 12:49 pm 28 Nov 18

    Because there’s no safe amount determined to be able to drive - for weed.

Peter Tyrrell Peter Tyrrell 3:39 pm 25 Nov 18

Not until its distributed by a regulated authority like any other controlled substance and taxed

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 4:36 pm 25 Nov 18

    Peter Tyrrell then we can complain about “Big Weed”? 😂

    Simon Power Simon Power 5:09 pm 25 Nov 18

    Dan Rayner you wanna see big weed? Come to my front yard. It’s out of control!

A_Cog A_Cog 3:06 pm 25 Nov 18

Disgraceful suggestion from people who should know better.

A pollie who reckons that public support for X should lead govt to do X… ok, let’s take a quick poll on support for halving rates and doubling public transport? Is the ALP gunna go do that?

And a medical health professional advocating rolling out an experimental approach supporting widespread drug consumption… whilst Australia is in the midst of a mental health crisis (yeah, lets shovel drugs out into the community, given the clear relationship between cannabis and psychosis).

Gee, if only there was somewhere that HAD rolled out legal(ish) cannabis, so we could see what health effects the community suffered from… like spikes in low birth weight infants (then doomed to a lifetime of health/crime/career disadvantage), jumps in psychosis, crime increases. Like the USA:

Birth weight:



    McManus McManus 1:17 pm 26 Nov 18

    Great sources, why don’t you just chuck a betoota article up there to compliment the rest of your information?

    justin heywood justin heywood 11:14 am 29 Nov 18

    His sources look OK.

    Of course McManus, if you’ve got better sources showing no effect, just post them.

    I’m not a medical scientist, so I’ll go with the consensus of what the majority of the studies say, rather than cherry-pick stuff that suits my ideological bias, (just like the climate change deniers do.)

    Thus it appears that Cannabis is not relatively harmless to society, as it boosters claim.

Jimmy Stewart Jimmy Stewart 2:21 pm 25 Nov 18

So if it’s legalised:

-Take away the criminal element

-Creates jobs/revenue

-Stop wasting police and Court time/resources

-Pizza sales go up

And the negatives are....?

    David Jackson David Jackson 2:47 pm 25 Nov 18

    Tell this to my mate who’s brother only played with marijuana and is now a schizophrenic in and out of physic wards?

    John Taylor John Taylor 3:15 pm 25 Nov 18

    Continued ignorance from the “but it’s a drug” crowd....they’ll claim to be two things they are not: silent and a majority

    Jacob Argent Jacob Argent 3:57 pm 25 Nov 18

    There is no evidence that cannabis causes schizophrenia. It is likely that those people would of developed it without even consuming cannabis.

    Simon Power Simon Power 5:09 pm 25 Nov 18

    David Jackson all studies around drug use and schizophrenia actually find that the numbers of people in the population with schizophrenia isn’t more or less if drugs are or aren’t experimented with.

    Basically the conclusion is you need to be predisposed to having it, and it just takes a “trigger” to bring it out. But it is just as likely to be brought out by a traumatic experience as it is through drug use.

    Robbie DeRoo Robbie DeRoo 6:17 pm 25 Nov 18

    While some argue that cannabis may worsen schizophrenia symptoms, evidence is mounting for marijuana as a potential treatment. I have seen first-hand how cannabis helped a friend live a relatively normal life. Whilst another friend’s brother, who never touched the stuff, killed himself after a psychotic episode. It is a shame it has taken this long for studies to start catching up to the anecdotal evidence. Anecdotes are not always wrong. Case in point.

    Robert MildlyRisky Agostino Robert MildlyRisky Agostino 9:55 am 26 Nov 18

    God will be angry.

    David Jackson David Jackson 6:30 am 27 Nov 18

    John Dale and I was waiting for the linguistics professor to notice the auto correct mistake. You need to get a life.

    David Jackson David Jackson 6:32 am 27 Nov 18

    Robert MildlyRisky Agostino you need to let go of imaginary friends.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 12:46 pm 28 Nov 18

    Well there is evidence that it exacerbates mental illnesses and brings it “out” in people with potential to develop mental illness. Talk to any psych ward staff and they will let you know what they think of the drug. Personally I believe that legalising plants grown at home is likely more safe than the stronger versions sold by drug dealers. But it’s a drug that alters mental states (that’s the whole point of users smoking it or however they use it for fun).

    Medical versions are different as the oil does not have the same contents to produce a “drugged out” effect.

    Legalise it by all means, but don’t pretend it’s a safe drug.

    Rooster James Rooster James 5:13 am 29 Nov 18

    The AMA have a different view.

Red Man Red Man 12:17 pm 25 Nov 18

Just legalise it. It would provide a massive economic benefit to the Territory.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 12:39 pm 28 Nov 18

    Personal use and growing up to four plants at their homes, not selling for profit.

    Red Man Red Man 5:39 pm 28 Nov 18

    Veronika Sain Yea, that's not smart. Should be similar to the Colorado or Las Vegas model. ACT government would make money hand over fist.

Craig Dingwall Craig Dingwall 12:17 pm 25 Nov 18

Will CBD oil be available?

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