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Australia

Is cannabis legal in Australia?

Yes and no. Adult-use remains illegal in most provinces, with the notable exception of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which includes the capital Canberra. The ACT legalized recreational marijuana on September 25, 2019. In the territory, residents over age 18 may possess up to 50 grams of marijuana, grow two plants per person or four plants per household at any given time, and use cannabis in their home.

Medical marijuana became legal when the country’s parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment in 2016. There is no list of qualifying conditions, but the Department of Health is reviewing existing studies of marijuana for chronic pain, epilepsy, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, palliative care, and multiple sclerosis. Interested patients should speak to their doctor.

Regulation authority

The country’s Department of Health’s Office of Drug Control oversees the national medical marijuana program.

This page was last updated on September 22, 2020.

View the marijuana laws & regulations for Australia.

It’s one year since the ACT legalised weed. Here’s how it’s gone

The law reform was dismissed at the time as “crazy”, “trendy” and dangerous. Twelve months on, has there been an increase in drug arrests or drug-driving charges?

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Australian Capital Territory legalising the possession, use and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis – an event that some predicted would lead to rampant stoned driving in the nation’s capital.

The jurisdiction was the first in Australia to legalise weed, and this provoked dire warnings from the Federal Government.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said at the time the law reform was “crazy”.

“I must say, I think this is, personally, a very bad idea,” he said.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the laws were “unconscionable” and “trendy”.

Does legalising marijuana lead to more people smoking weed?

The changes themselves came into effect eight months ago.

According to data supplied to Hack by ACT police, there hasn’t been any meaningful increase in drug arrests or drug-driving charges.

Twelve young people have been directed into drug support programs, which is about the same number as in previous years.

The number of roadside drug tests detecting THC, which is what shows up when you’ve had cannabis, is about the same.

There hasn’t been any meaningful increase in drug arrests or drug-driving charges.

Michael Petterson, an ACT Labor politician who advocated for changing the law, said he’s not surprised by these figures.

“I was always skeptical of claims that drug-driving was going to increase in the ACT, for the very simple reason that for the most part people that wanted to use cannabis were using cannabis under the old regime,” he said.

Too early to tell, surgeons say

But some doctors say it’s too early to judge what the effect has been.

John Crozier, from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, which opposed the new laws, said drug-driving may increase slowly.

“Our position has not changed,” he said.

“It doesn’t surprise me in relation to an illegal or any recently legalized drug, that we’re not seeing an uptick rapidly.”

He said the risks of drug-driving were too great for marijuana to be legalised, and pointed to research that showed marijuana use several hours before driving is three times more likely to be associated with a fatality.

“THC is not a benign drug,” he said.

“It does objectively degrade driving behavior. It is unfortunately the reality in so many of our hospitals around Australia.”

The apparent success of legalisation has emboldened advocates for drug law reform, who want to take legalisation further.

Michael Petterson, the Labor politician, wants a licensed, regulated commercial model of cannabis supply where the drug can be openly sold.

“There are limitations on what we can put in place because of Commonwealth law,” he said.

But others warn against going down the route of some US states and Canada, where marijuana is advertised and sold from dispensaries.

National Drug Research Institute director Simon Lenton said these profit-driven models make it an incentive to encourage more people to use marijuana, and he believed this has bad outcomes for public health.

“[They] really look like the worst of the alcohol and tobacco markets,” he said.

The law reform was dismissed at the time as "crazy", "trendy" and dangerous. ]]>