26 September 2019

Police union says new cannabis laws complicate the issue

| Lachlan Roberts
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ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson

ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said ACT police officers will support the government on the new laws. Photo: File.

The police union says legalising cannabis in the ACT will only complicate the issue, after new cannabis possession laws were passed in the Legislative Assembly yesterday afternoon.

Under the new legislation, which was put forward by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, adults will be allowed to possess 50 grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants in their home.

Despite cannabis possession being decriminalised in the ACT, it still remains a criminal offence to cultivate or possess cannabis under Commonwealth legislation. Under the Commonwealth criminal code, people caught with small amounts of cannabis could face a maximum $8,000 fine or up to two years’ jail.

Australian Federal Police Association president Angela Smith said the new legislation puts ACT Policing in a difficult position.

“Commonwealth laws trump ACT laws so now police officers have been put in a position where they can use Commonwealth legislation,” Ms Smith told Region Media. “This is defeating the purpose of the bill, which is to keep people out of the criminal justice system.

“There was nothing wrong with the legislation to start with because it gave a good approach for police to use. I just think this new bill has created more questions than it is ever going to possibly resolve.

“There is a lot of power in words and I think this bill will confuse people. People may start to think this is free for all.”

ACT Policing’s Chief Police Officer Johnson said it is up to the discretion of each police officer whether a person will be charged under ACT law or Commonwealth law, admitting it would be a challenge for officers.

“Every day, police officers doing their duty make decisions taking into account the circumstances of the particular occasion,” CPO Johnson told ABC Canberra radio. “We provide good training to our police officers and instil them with values so they know and understand their accountability to the law, but also to the safety of the community.

“All those things will come into play when they make their decision.”

CPO Johnson said police officers can still apply Commonwealth law in certain circumstances.

“I am not suggesting that ACT Policing will start a campaign of going out and charging everyone with Commonwealth offences because I don’t believe that to be the case,” he said. “For the most part, our officers understand what this debate is about.

“We will support the ACT Government on their initiatives to improve the lives of Canberrans and we will work with them to make it as effective as can be.”

The new laws will come into effect on 31 January 2020.

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I always heard that cannabis had the effect of making people confused. How right they were!

Mike of Canberra6:21 pm 03 Oct 19

The inevitable result of the sort of mindless, devil-take-the-consequences grandstanding we’ve come to expect from Barr & Co.

Sounds like the “thin edge of the wedge” argument does have validity.


The law hasn’t even come into effect yet and they are already talking about the next round of drugs.

Where will our government draw the line?

“We will support the ACT Government on their initiatives to improve the lives of Canberrans and we will work with them to make it as effective as can be.” So much for professional policing.
The only people who know where this madness will lead us are the experts who know that we don’t need any more drug-impared drivers on the road.
Still, it will be an interesting personal negligence case to answer when Constable Bloggs, who wants to be part of the ‘debate’ turns a blind eye to Smokin’ Jim driving into mum and a pram load of kids.

Scott Fckalltodowithu3:52 pm 10 Feb 20

Just because they can have weed does not mean they can drive while high on weed. besides they are already doing it. this will not change the number of people Dui at all. Think before you type

Jimmy J LaRue4:42 pm 27 Sep 19

This is a messy but important first step into a rational approach to drug policy on Cannabis.

Mr Hanson’s comments on ABC Radio made sense that the law needs to offer clarity and we don’t have that now.

The rest of the arguments around health issues, the Fed Libs comments from Minister McCormick and Minister Dutton were naive and basic conservative arguments easily written off –
McCormicks – Drug drivers comment was utterly irrelevant but raises a discussion about drug driving thresholds.
Duttons – Cheap shot at the assembly and then a comment about THC content of “grown in factories” – An argument easily applied to further the health issues.

I doubt any of the naysayers could articulate the difference in effect between Indica and Sativa strains nor how legalisation in the states leads to better measurement of THC content that informs medical risk and benefit directly.

It is well proven that low THC amounts can offer a plethora of medicinal applications. That element is not well covered in either the law as to the issue of supply and in traffic operations in terms of a .05 type of approach to account for THC effects from prescribed medicines. It’s a binary your are or you aren’t and that doesn’t accurately capture impairment from use.

For the growers, 50g dry flower & 150 wet is not reflective of 2-4 plants in the back yard. 2 mature plants as soon as they are taken from the ground could be as much as 12kg of wet weed. This is the messy part for them – are they to harvest 150 g wet at a time?

It’s a great start to get a dialogue going, but there is some considerable detail to unpack.

Timothy Hughes7:30 pm 26 Sep 19

Mental note to self – Don’t order Domino’s on the evening of 31 Jan 2020!

Timothy Hughes7:12 pm 26 Sep 19

It’s about time common sense prevailed.

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