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Labor backbencher 'very confident' cannabis bill will pass

September 20, 2019

 

Canberra won't be the next Canada or Colorado, where marijuana is sold in shops, according to the ACT politician behind the push to legalise the drug for personal use in the territory.

 

Michael Pettersson is also assured that his proposed cannabis bill won't clash with Commonwealth law, despite the ACT government warning that Canberrans could still be prosecuted for possessing and growing the plants under the new regime.

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who is "very confident" his proposed cannabis bill will be passed. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

 

Mr Pettersson's bill is due to be debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly next Wednesday, with the Labor backbencher saying he was "very confident" it would pass.

 

The ACT Greens have signalled their support for the bill, meaning it is all but guaranteed to become law.

 

The ACT government on Thursday outlined a number of amendments it intends to make to the bill ahead of next week's debate, including placing a limit of four plants per household.

 

The existing bill included no household limit.

 

Individuals would be allowed to possess a maximum of two cannabis plants, rather than four, under the proposed amendments.

 

Cannabis must be kept out of reach of children, while growing the plants in community gardens would be banned, under other suggested changes.

 

On Friday, Mr Pettersson welcomed the amendments, which he described as "sensible".

 

The first-term MLA was asked by reporters if Canberrans could soon expect marijuana to be sold in shops, as it is in other jurisdictions around the world where the drug has been legalised.

 

"This model is different to what most people think of cannabis legalisation," he said.

 

"This isn't Colorado, this isn't Canada. There are no dispensaries getting set up under the system. This [bill] simply means that individuals caught with small amounts ... for personal use will not face criminal charge."

Shadow Attorney-General Jeremy Hanson, who said the opposition remained fundamentally opposed to the laws. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

 

Pushed on whether a commercial, recreational cannabis market could be set up in the future, Mr Pettersson said "that was not something the ACT is really ready for at this time".

 

The government has proposed further amendments designed to make the bill more compatible with Commonwealth laws.

 

In Thursday's statement, the government conceded that, even if Mr Pettersson's bill passed, people possessing and growing cannabis were still at risk of being prosecuted under federal laws.

 

It could also not guarantee that the federal government would not intervene to block the reforms, as it did after the ACT passed laws to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013.

 

"We believe the ACT is able and entitled to make our own laws on this matter," the reported tabled on Thursday stated.

 

"However, we would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to legislate in this way, and the interaction with existing Commonwealth law remains untested.

 

"The amendments proposed by the government aim to reduce the risk to individual Canberrans but cannot remove this entirely."

 

But Mr Pettersson was confident his proposed cannabis laws would not be overridden.

 

"The Commonwealth law was written to understand that there are differences between the state and territory, and the commonwealth," he said.

 

"There are defences under Commonwealth law to any Commonwealth drug charge that contradicts state and territory law."

 

Shadow attorney-general Jeremy Hanson indicated the opposition would support the government's amendments, as it sought to "limit the damage" of laws which it fundamentally opposed.

 

Mr Hanson was concerned that the proposed bill was the "first step on the path" towards the legalisation of other drugs.
 
Originally published here: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6397162/labor-backbencher-very-confident-cannabis-bill-will-pass/

 

 

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