Canberra Becomes Australia’s First City to Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use

In a historic vote Tuesday night Canberra lawmakers approved a bill legalizing marijuana for everyone 18 and older, reports CNN. Canberra is located in the Australia Capital Territory.


The law, which goes into effect on January 31, legalizes the personal possession of up to 50 grams (or one and three quarters ounce) of cannabis and the private cultivation of up to two marijuana plants (or up to four per household if more than one adult is living there).

The change makes the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) the first of Australia’s six states and two main territories to legalize marijuana for personal use. As noted by CNN, drug laws differ depending on the state or territory. Under the ACT’s current law, cultivating one or two cannabis plants or possessing 50g (1.76 ounces) of cannabis carries a possible 160 Australian dollar fine ($108), while possessing more than 50g (1.76 ounces) of cannabis carries a maximum 8,000 Australian dollar fine or two years in prison — or both.

According to the Australian government, marijuana is the country’s most widely-used illicit drug. In the 2017-2018 financial year, there were over 72,000 cannabis-related arrests made in Australia — and 92% of those arrested were consumers.

ACT’s new law conflicts with national drug laws enacted by Australia’s Parliament which prohibit the possession of marijuana. According to the ABC, it could be possible for those laws to overrule ACT’s new law. However, it’s not the first time that ACT’s laws have been in conflict with national laws. In 2013, the ACT legalized same-sex marriage — but it was struck down by a decision by Australia’s highest court, which ruled that the ACT legislation was inconsistent with the national law.

In 2016, the Australian Parliament passed an amendment allowing marijuana to be legally grown for medical and scientific purposes for the first time in Australia. “In neighboring New Zealand, possessing marijuana for personal use is still illegal, although the country is set to hold a referendum on legalizing it next year”, states CNN. If New Zealand does legalize marijuana, it will be only the third country in the world after Uruguay and Canada to do so.

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