Cannabis scheme a step in right direction, could have been improved: ACT Greens

Australian Greens

The Greens today expressed disappointment that a number of Greens amendments, designed to make the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018 more workable in practice, were not supported by the major parties today.

“Let’s get real about cannabis. The war on drugs has failed. This is a small but significant step in a long journey of drug law reforms,” ACT Greens spokesperson for drug law reform Shane Rattenbury said today.

“The Greens believe that allowing adults in the ACT to possess and use cannabis would acknowledge the modern reality that many adults choose to use cannabis, and criminalising it causes more harm than good. Keeping cannabis use as an offence drives people away from getting help when they need it and can expose them to social and financial harms through the criminal justice system.

We will continue to ensure the ACT leads the nation when it comes to evidenced based and sensible drug law reform and harm minimisation, just like we have with pill testing.

The Greens support the intent of the Bill and have proposed a number of amendments to make it more workable in practice. These include:

Greens amendments

ALP supported?

Liberal supported?

Increasing the allowable amount for possession for people who use cannabis medicinally (to 150g) to recognise that it remains difficult to access medicinal cannabis through the current scheme and people with a medical need may need to stockpile larger quantities than recreational users.

No

No

Delaying the commencement of the Act until the government develops and makes public guidance material outlining the legal and health implications of growing, possessing and using cannabis.

Yes

Yes

Introducing a set of objectives for the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 to reflect a commitment to harm minimisation and the treatment of drug use as a health issue. These objectives are aligned with the COAG agreed national alcohol and drug strategy which address supply, demand and harm minimisation.

No

No

Proposing the establishment of an independent cannabis advisory council to provide expertise to the minister on the impacts of this issue.

No

No

Introducing a review clause so that the impacts of the legislation is reviewed after 3 years.

Yes

Yes

Removing the restriction on artificial cultivation of cannabis, as we understand that almost all the cannabis consumed in the ACT is cultivated artificially and growing through more ‘natural’ means is not viable for a significant portion of the year in the ACT’s climate.

No

No

Medicinal cannabis

“In 2004, Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker proposed legislation to allow people to grow or possess cannabis for medicinal purposes. Ten years later, I proposed similar legislation. The Labor and Liberal parties blocked the reforms on each occasion.

“We had hoped that people suffering serious illnesses would have easier access to cannabis for medicinal use. Sadly, this won’t be the case – as both the major parties have again refused to back this important legislative change.

“Patients seeking access to medicinal cannabis in are needlessly suffering while they wait to access cannabis through formal medical channels that largely still don’t exist, despite a legal scheme being formally established.”

Independent cannabis advisory council

“The Greens also proposed that an independent cannabis advisory council be set up to provide expertise to the minister on the impacts of this issue. Neither of the major parties backed this important step that would have provided oversight and ongoing evaluation of this new and novel approach towards more genuine cannabis legalisation over time. Without a council, this will reduce the minister’s supervision of the new scheme.”

Legalisation at a national level

“While today’s Bill is an important step forward, there’s still work to be done to ensure that cannabis use is treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue.

“Together with our Federal Greens colleagues, we’ll continue to campaign for legalisation at a national level to allow for the supply and sale of cannabis in a nationally regulated market, something the ACT is unable to do on our own.”

Statement ends

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