As per a classic quote by the famous American author Kurt Vonnegut – ‘Alcohol and marijuana, if used in moderation, plus loud, usually low-class music, make stress and boredom infinitely more bearable’.
The contemporary world we live in, has been evolving around a taboo of the past- Cannabis, with countries like Chile, Germany, Norway, Thailand, Argentina, Canada and Greece (to name a few) legalizing the use of medicinal cannabis, after acknowledging its potential benefits to heal physical and mental illnesses. Australia proudly joined the bandwagon in February 2016, and ever since, the medicinal cannabis space has gained massive traction among businesses, collaborators and investors.
However, recreational cannabis, even though a low-hanging fruit to legalize, has been illegal and subject to various discussions and debates among Australian public officials, private players and the media houses.
But the silver lining has finally emerged after Capital city Canberra became the first Australian jurisdiction to legalize the recreational consumption and growing of cannabis, referred to as the weed capital by few industry experts.
Let’s dive right in, as the country celebrates this historic update:
ACT Legalizes the Recreational Possession and Cultivation of Marijuana
25 September 2019 would be written in bold in Australia’s achievement list, with the passing of the new cannabis law in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), as a step was crafted counter attacking the existing federal laws.
The Capital proudly became the first ever Aussie region to legalize the cannabis recreational possession and cultivation. However, the legislation is not yet effective and is expected to spark live in January 2020.
After months of debate hovering around health concerns, legal boundaries and state policies, new law in the ACT would permit Australian residents of the region aged 18 and above to possess up to 50 grams of dried marijuana (which is not an inconsiderable amount).
The Expert Opinion
After this historic announcement was made, industry experts believe that the move would work to reduce the harm of drugs in the Australian community and lessen the concerns around drug use. Moreover, the legalising recreational cannabis would encourage drug addicts to seek help without fearing an arrest warrant or related legal constraints.
However, a section of experts believe that the move is likely to create a broader conversational environment, rather that causing a shift in cannabis consumption while involving clash with the nation’s federal laws.
There are discussions that say that this is not the first time that the ACT has taken a step that counter attacks the federal laws. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013 (revoked later by the federal government) and voluntary euthanasia too was legalised in 1995 (until a federal law overturning the territory law was passed).
Decoding ACT’s New Cannabis Law
- It would be legal to possess 50 grams of cannabis at any one time
- It would be legal to grow two plants on a private property.
- Growing marijuana plants in community gardens would remain illegal.
- Using cannabis in public places would be against the law, hence residents would be restricted to the privacy of their private properties.
- Sale and sharing of cannabis- the seeds, plants or leaves would remain an offence.
- The police could charge residents in case of mishandling the Commonwealth law. However, discretion would be used, and local laws followed.
- Post a final sign off, the law is expected to be live in the region from January next year.
On this note, according to the Australian Government’s Department of Health, the drug laws in Australia are complex, with some being federal based and others being based on the state or territory.
Impact on Other Regions and the Law
It should be noted that even after ACT has welcomed the much-anticipated legalization of recreational cannabis with open arms, the illicit drug would remain to be illegal elsewhere in Australia.
This means that one would not be allowed to take legal weed from Canberra and cross the borders, a situation which would lead to fines and imprisonment.
Even when Canberra’s territory laws allow possession and cultivation, the Commonwealth laws has the potential to prosecute offenders. A concrete update on the legal front is not out yet but is expected to clear the headwinds surrounding the new policies.
Recent on the Cannabis Front in Australia
Let us browse through few updates that kept September 2019 engaged with the cannabis space in Australia:
- ASX listed THC Global Limited (ASX: THC) opened its Bundaberg production facility and Southport Medicinal Cannabis Facility. The latter is the biggest bio-pharma manufacturing facility of the Southern Hemisphere, and its low-cost production capability is likely to uplift accessibility and supply for Aussie patients at better costs.
- Even though South Australia’s industrial hemp sector is at early stages, experts believe that the crop could grow very successfully in the state, post hemp trials in Riverland and South East regions.
- Expanding its international bandwidth, Australia sent medicinal cannabis to Germany for testing purposes, which marks the latter’s first imports of medicinal cannabis (apart from Portugal).
- Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand, is gaining traction on the cannabis front. Sydney-based Greenfield MC has announced a new JV with NZ’s Wepiha Health Co. and EPHS. With this, Greenfield would become the first Aussie player to have such a relationship across the Tasman.
- An Industrial Hemp Taskforce has been appointed by the government in Victoria to scrutinise opportunities for industrial hemp in the state.
Cannabis Stocks on ASX
Let us conclude our article by glancing through the stock performance and returns generated by few ASX-listed cannabis players, at the close of the trading session on 26 September 2019:
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