The recent legalisation of cannabis use in the Australian Capital Territory has become a bit of a pot stir for the nation. Many see the change in rules as a progressive step in the right direction, while others view the decision as crazy.
While you might think that you and your neighbour Brenda can now share a legal jozzy across the fence, that’s not yet the truth. And even though the rules apply under state and territory law, you may still be prosecuted under federal law.
Australia has long been divided in its views on cannabis legalisation and had a bigger impact on international criminalisation influence than you may think.
A short history on cannabis in Australia
Cannabis arrived in the Land Down Under during British colonisation. A green-thumb botanist named Sir Joseph Banks had a vision for Australia to basically become one big weed farm, who saw colossal potential for a hemp industry.
The plant has a long history of cultural significance since it was used for paper, clothing and medicine in China. It then spread from Ancient Egypt to Greece, through Christianity and Islam – some even believe Jesus’s magic miracles we due to his use of cannabis oil.
It’s believed to have influenced the Buddha in India, who meditated for years off hemp seeds. Then it spread to Africa and South America, before gaining attention from King Henry and Queen Elizabeth, who threatened land owners with a fine if they didn’t grow the herb.
The 19th century saw a boom in hemp throughout the Western world, mostly for its superior quality for textiles and sustainability – as it requires less than half of the water needed to harvest cotton.
Then why on earth was it criminalised?
We know, right? In 1925, the League of Nations established the 1925 Geneva Convention which included a ban on drugs like opium and coca plant. Cannabis was dashed on the bill at the very last minute
The decision was a response to cries from the Egyptian government, who was afraid that “chronic hashism” was causing insanity across the country – a motion also backed by Turkey.
US prohibition enthusiast, Harry J. Anslinger, was refocusing his energy after a failed alcohol-ban campaign to pursue a world-wide ban on weed. This spurred the US to create propaganda campaigns claiming that weed-users were drug-crazed dangers to society under the influence of ganja. But despite multiple scientists and governments stating cannabis was in fact, not dangerous, he still chose to spread the word of the “devil’s lettuce”.
Under pressure from the UK, Victoria became the first state to legislate against recreational use of the plant in 1928. In 1937, the US wrote to the Australian government to ask for information about state cannabis regulations, providing a factsheet about the dangers in the letter.
The Australian External Affairs Minister Robert Menzies wrote to the League of Nations, influencing an agreement to include cannabis in the provision of the convention. Medical marijuana was considered legal until it became prohibited in the 1960s – a time where the use of cannabis increased – through political and social opposition of the Vietnam War.
In 1987, South Australia, who was soon followed by the ACT in 1992, decriminalised minor offences for possession. In 2000, NSW introduced a cannabis-cautioning scheme where police may charge on a third warning. And then, 20 years later, here we are – in 2020, the year of the green future!
Before you light up, just read the finer details first
As of 4.20pm on January the 31st, the ACT announced a change in the rules. They state that private properties within the territory may cultivate two cannabis plants per person – with a maximum of four permitted at each home.
Possession is limited to 50g of dried cannabis, although it isn’t clear how you can legally purchase any seeds. If you do so happen to have access, there’s no sharing it with your mates – even gifting topical oils or edibles is considered an offence.
Selling, sharing or gifting any bud is illegal, and you can’t take it home with you if you’re not from the ACT. There’s no consuming it in public places, and you can’t use hydroponics or artificial cultivation – a process that can increase harvest yields, likely over the 50g limit.
The permissions based on local and Commonwealth laws are conflicting, meaning you could technically be charged for possession of cannabis by ACT police if they wanted to. But the ACT Chief Minister said the new laws will free up local police so they can focus on large-scale drug networks instead.
What the future looks like for greenthusiasts across the nation is unclear, but there are many reasons for why the news is a major milestone on Australia’s calendar. Not only is hemp more beneficial for the environment, it has health benefits too – made up of protein, fibre and carbohydrates, as well as being a great alternative to fish oil when in oil form.
To mark the occasion, East 9th Brewery has partnered with ganjapreneur Snoop Dogg to launch a range of ‘Merry Jane’ Hemp Ales, based on strains of cannabis- the first (strain #1) being Mango Kush – and we think that’s worth celebrating!