Police union says new cannabis laws complicate the issue

Lachlan Roberts 26 September 2019 106
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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106 Responses to Police union says new cannabis laws complicate the issue
Debbie Ful Debbie Ful 1:29 pm 04 Mar 20

I feel sorry for the police but also for the people in cronic pain. I’m one of them. I have heard that the cbd oil costs nearly $400 approx and for people on it on a low income how does the govt expect them to keep paying for that a fortnight / month.? I think if people are on the trial the Govt tax on it should be exempt as they are doing the right way so they can afford to be able to trial it. The laws are stupid for cannabis, either it’s legal or it’s not and if it’s legal then the weight of a plant should be addressed properly. Whether it’s wet or dry is stupid as time goes on it would naturally dry. If you are going to have a legal rule make it legal and proper in both territory and commonwealth law and maybe one plant per person no matter of the end weight and it’s for keeping until they can grow another one, as far as I have found out these plants only grow in certain times of the year so then the people with pain would need a years supply does that make sense to everyone else? But I think it would be much easier to get the oil from the drs and then it’s safer. But the cost is unreasonable for anyone on pain killers. How are they expected to trial something that costs the earth and their other pain medicine is on the Govt subsidy so this is where the oil should be too. Pain is pain and so subsidy should be subsidy relief.I really think there’s a lot of people have no common sense anymore. The only people who can afford to trial this medicine long term are people with well paid jobs what about the low pension and other other govt payments they are on govt subsidy for prescriptions what makes this oil any different. All I can see is the govt getting richer every day and the people who need the pain medicine are usually been hardworking people or there bodies have let them down because of their lifestyle which if your well off is less in my view. Fix this problem for the people in pain who really need it PLEASE.

elissa f elissa f 12:42 pm 10 Oct 19

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

Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 6:21 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.

Spiral Spiral 5:52 am 02 Oct 19

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?

Kris Walker Kris Walker 10:03 pm 01 Oct 19

Be nice to cops when caught with weed: ACT Law.

Be a smart ass prick to cop when caught with weed: Federal law.


Arthur Arthur 4:34 pm 30 Sep 19

“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 Fckalltodowithu Scott Fckalltodowithu 3:52 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

Brian Bollard Brian Bollard 9:17 pm 28 Sep 19

Haha the cops won't know who to harass.

Mick Gray Mick Gray 8:23 pm 28 Sep 19

How does detecting people driving UID with cannabis if there are no initial tests to quantify a measurable result like alcohol?

Danielle Brown Danielle Brown 5:39 pm 28 Sep 19

Mon Watts 4 plants 😳

Mike O'Connor Mike O'Connor 12:33 pm 28 Sep 19

My understanding is that the police officers in the ACT are all AFP officers, and as such must be seen to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth.

If a State or Territory law is in conflict with a Commonwealth law, then the Commonwealth law takes precedence and the AFP officers must act accordingly.

    Carl Kalman Carl Kalman 12:45 pm 28 Sep 19

    form what i've found Mike, it depends on the "extent of the inconsistency" under Section 109 of the Constitution......ie legal minefield.

    Mike O'Connor Mike O'Connor 1:11 pm 28 Sep 19

    Carl Kalman,

    But in the case of the ACT and NT, they are both territories if the Commonwealth and are also subject to Section 122 which appears to give the Commonwealth absolute power over the laws of the territories.

    Much of this stems from the ACT Government thinking they’re the equivalent of a State Government, when they’re really not much more than a glorified area council.

    Carl Kalman Carl Kalman 3:15 pm 28 Sep 19

    Seems very archaic to have territories anywhere n the 21st Century and stupid rules and regulations that aren't the same throughout the country.. No wonder Norfalk Islanders are rather pissed off and want to run their own affairs rather than be another territory.

Wayne Jeff Reilly Wayne Jeff Reilly 6:41 am 28 Sep 19

Peter Martel, there are so many people in our society/community who suffers from a diagnosed mental health condition/s and who feel they are not getting any help from mental health services, are self medicating by using Cannabis as medication. Which over time only exacerbates their condition/s to the point they do something they would not have if properly cared for.

The new ACT legislation will only empower them to self medicate.

Danielle Brown Danielle Brown 4:58 am 28 Sep 19

Mon Watts 4 plants 😳

Jimmy J LaRue Jimmy J LaRue 4:42 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.

Joe Coppin Joe Coppin 2:10 pm 27 Sep 19

Sounds like the police union doesn't have a lot of faith in there own officers common-sense.

Luckily we have either seen or experienced that the ACT police force is intelligent and excellent along with displaying brilliant empathy when required.

Instead of hammering the ACT legislative assembly maybe we should be petitioning the federal government to change its law. Then all of us Australians could benefit from the revenue generated not just the black marketeers.

Imagine the improvements if a few hundred million (probably a conservative estimate) was available to be distributed to health.

Unfortunately prohibition has never really stemmed the inflow of drugs it's time for a different approach and this is a small step in that direction.

Richard Shortt Richard Shortt 2:07 pm 27 Sep 19

Sounds like the complication is not the law, but the fact ACT police owe allegiance to two ‘legislatures’. Time to sort that out via law, or to provide the ACT with a ‘single authority / legislation’ police. If the AFP cannot be flexible and responsible, then they have a problem and may lose their ‘community policing’ linkages as a result.

Jackie Fuller Jackie Fuller 1:26 pm 27 Sep 19

They shouldn't have legalized cannabis....they should have just made CBD available to all pain patients!.

Gail Sellers Gail Sellers 9:45 am 27 Sep 19

Isn't that governments job?They can make any simple thing complicated.

Raymond Reddington Raymond Reddington 7:33 am 27 Sep 19

Another stupid decision by the “progressive” (political definition of a muppet) ACT government that is poorly thought and in contravention of national law

Nigel Pee Nigel Pee 7:20 am 27 Sep 19

Bloody liberal govt

Layth Cole Layth Cole 11:50 pm 26 Sep 19

Vicki Turner here you go, have a read!

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