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Australian Capital Territory Legalizes Recreational Cannabis; Federal AG Says It's A 'Dumb' Move

Nina Zdinjak

The Australian Capital Territory legalized recreational cannabis use last week by passing a landmark bill that allows residents over 18 to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and to grow four plants at home, according to the BBC.

While medicinal cannabis was legalized in Australia back in 2016, recreational cannabis use remains illegal; there are ongoing fears that the ACT’s law could be overturned by the federal government.

The legislation is expected to come into effect Jan. 31. Until then, public consumption of cannabis in the region will remain against the law, the BBC said. 

"This does not entirely remove the risk of people being arrested under [federal] law, and we are being upfront with the community about that," Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Just one day after the legislation, Federal Attorney-General Christian Porte made negative comments on the news, saying it was “really dumb idea,” reports PerthNow.

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Porte doesn’t expect federal police to ignore cannabis possession in ACT when it becomes legal in 2020, as he said the Commonwealth laws are still applicable in the ACT.

 “If you’re in the ACT and you’re waking up today ... there are still Commonwealth laws that apply.”  

ACT’s chief minister Andrew Barr disregarded fears that ACT residents will be prosecuted by the federal police when the law becomes effective.

“Does anyone seriously think the Commonwealth DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) is going to spend all of their time, or a considerable amount of their time, prosecuting individuals in the ACT for the possession of less than 50 grams of cannabis?” he said.

“It’s one thing for police to arrest someone, it’s another thing to successfully prosecute someone.”

While it remains clear that the Commonwealth laws are still applicable in the ACT, only the time will tell if the new law is controversial enough to be considered for overturning by the federal government.  

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