Eight people have been caught carrying more than 50 grams of dried cannabis this year, up from zero in 2019, new ACT Policing data has revealed.
A further 13 people were charged with carrying less than 50 grams in January this year, just days or weeks before the legislation was enacted.
The laws, which came into effect on 31 January this year, make it legal for a Canberran over the age of 18 to possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis, 150 grams of fresh cannabis and cultivate two plants.
Critics, including the Canberra Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson, warned when the bill passed that the new laws would lead to increased rates of drug driving.
Drug driving infringements, which are not broken down into drug type, have fallen to 449 people, compared to 572 at the same time last year. Just over 760 drivers were caught under the influence of drugs in 2019. However, traffic on arterial roads dropped by between 20 to 50 per cent in May due to the pandemic, with Roads ACT finding around a 40 per cent drop in traffic rates on arterial roads Canberra-wide compared to the previous month.
The number of under 18-year-olds caught carrying less than 50 grams of cannabis has also fallen significantly since the new cannabis legalisation laws came into effect. Twelve people under the age of 18 caught with less than 50 grams this year so far, compared with 25 in 2019.
A total of 18 people under the age of 18 were charged during the same time period last year.
The police union also came out against the laws, saying legalising cannabis in the ACT would only complicate the issue as possession was still a federal offence.
Under the Commonwealth criminal code, people caught with small amounts of cannabis could face a maximum fine of $8,000 fine or up to two years’ jail.
It is up to the discretion of each police officer whether a person will be charged under ACT law or Commonwealth law, then-Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said when the bill passed.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s annual Illicit Drug Data Report for the 2018-19 financial year found that national illicit drug seizures have increased 77 per cent over the last decade. This compares to a 13 per cent growth in population throughout the same period.
There was a 7.7 per cent increase in cannabis seizures in the ACT between 2017-18 and 2018-19, growing to 655. This correlated with a 125 per cent increase in the weight of cannabis seized, with police confiscating an extra 190 kilograms of the drug.