In 2016, the Australian government conducted a survey revealing that 87% of Australians support the use of cannabis in clinical trials to treat medical conditions. To legalise or not to legalise marijuana has been a heated topic of debate globally.
Governments struggle with the ethical and economic effects that legalization would incur in a country. On the one hand, legalising it would bring in more tax revenue, and it would be useful in managing some illnesses. On the other hand, the overuse of cannabis may have negative health consequences for both adolescents and adults.
In this article, we take a look at how Australian cannabis laws have evolved. What do you need to know before you consider getting or growing some cannabis?
Federal Australian Cannabis Laws
Generally, cannabis is illegal everywhere in Australia. However, in 2016, Australia legalised the use of medical cannabis. Recreational possession of marijuana in many jurisdictions remains a crime, although police officers will give first-time offenders a warning.
If convicted with this offence, you face up to two years in prison. A few states and territories have managed to decriminalise cannabis. This doesn’t mean it becomes legal – it means that you have the option to pay a fine to avoid criminal charges.
Let’s have a look at specific territories and states:
Australian Capital Territory
ACT weed laws, which came into effect in January 2020, allow residents over 18 years of age to possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis. Residents may also privately grow two plants per person or four plants per household at any one time. Commercial sale or supply of marijuana, however, remains prohibited. If a police officer catches you with 25 grams or less of cannabis, you must either attend a treatment program or pay a fine.
In South Australia, minor cannabis offences are not criminal acts. The rules are much harsher on those who manufacture, cultivate, sell, or intend to sell controlled plants. Offences which involve commercial quantities can attract up to 500,000 dollars and life imprisonment.
Cannabis use has been primarily decriminalized in the Northern Territory. Weed laws in this part of Australia dictate that you risk fines of up to 200 dollars if a police officer catches you with either:
- 50 grams of cannabis
- 1 gram of hash or cannabis seeds or
- two non-hydroponic plants
You would have to pay this fine within 28 days to avoid going to court or receiving a conviction. However, possession of cannabis in a public place is still an offence, for which you could face imprisonment, and must appear in court.
Possession of cannabis in Tasmania is a criminal offence. Also, if you possess any utensil or appliance whose purpose is for the administration of marijuana, you could get a hefty fine.
If a police officer finds you with up to 50 grams of cannabis, they can give you up to 3 warnings. In the third case, they may have to send you for treatment for drug use.
New South Wales
Just like in Tasmania, if you possess cannabis in New South Wales, you are committing a criminal offence. Here, you get up to two cautions by a police officer when you get caught with up to 15 grams. The warnings include information about cannabis usage and a hotline for drug-related advice.
In Queensland, the local pot laws dictate that if you get caught with less than 50 grams of cannabis, the officer must offer you a drug diversion program on your first offence. If law enforcement finds you with more than 500 grams, you face up to 20 years maximum jail time.
Depending on the court and the circumstances surrounding your arrest, the court may also ask you to pay a fine for any cannabis possession offence.
Western Australia has some of the most stringent pot laws in the country. Cannabis offences are criminal offences, and they attract fines of up to 24,000 dollars and jail time. Some of the offences that could land you in jail include:
- Possessing more than 10 grams of cannabis
- Possessing more than 100 grams, which will be deemed as intent to sell pot
- Displaying cannabis smoking implements in shops
- Selling cannabis smoking implements to adults or minors
Uses of Cannabis in Australia
Licenced cultivators grow cannabis in Australia under strict laws that are enforced by the federal government. The two main reasons why an Australian would cultivate cannabis. One is on a large scale for medical use, while in the Australian Capital Territory, residents are allowed to grow controlled amounts for recreational use.
1. Medical Use
Doctors use medical cannabis to treat and manage some conditions and diseases. The two main active chemicals used in this medicine are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Multiple governments suggested clinical trials using medical marijuana in Australia, even as a basis for legalising the substance.
A few of the conditions for which medical cannabis treats include:
- Loss of appetite
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple Sclerosis
Federal weed laws dictate that you need to get a licence to cultivate medical cannabis. Only certified doctors in states where it’s legal can prescribe medical cannabis, provided that they have the appropriate government approvals. You can get your prescription at any pharmacy in these particular states.
2. Recreational Use
Under the Australian federal law, recreational possession of cannabis can land you up to two years in prison. Only in states where marijuana is decriminalised are you allowed to grow weed, and even then, there are rules.
For instance, you can only grow weed in the Australian Capital Territory on private property. This property must be your official permanent residence and should be inaccessible to the public. It is illegal to expose children to cannabis smoke or to smoke in a public place.
It remains illegal throughout Australia to drive with cannabis in your system and to sell, share, or gift cannabis to anyone else. Persons under the age of 18 should never have access to, grow, or use marijuana.
Contrary to what most people popularly believe, it is illegal to cultivate, possess, or sell cannabis in Australia. You would need to examine each state’s local laws to be clear on what is allowed and what the limits are. Even where the personal use of marijuana has been decriminalised, Australian residents still face repercussions if law enforcement catches them with cannabis or related products.
Now that you are familiar with Australian cannabis laws, you can make informed decisions going forward. Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the law. Always remember to indulge responsibly.