Sharehouses in Canberra could be teeming with pot plants when cannabis is legalised next year, with no household limits on the number of plants permissible.
The private members bill from Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson removes the possession of cannabis under 50g as an offence and allows individuals to cultivate up to four plants.
The plants cannot be grown hydroponically or with artificial light.
However because there is no limit on the total number of plants per household, it’s led to speculation that houses with multiple residents could have multiple plants each.
A sharehouse with four residents could have 16 plants, so long as each of the four residents tended to their own four plants. There’s no restriction on plant size either.
Mr Pettersson said his bill aimed to reduce the reliance personal consumers have on the black market and its drug dealers by allowing individuals to cultivate four cannabis plants.
“However, individuals engaging in drug trafficking activities and the sale of cannabis continue to commit drug offences and they will be pursued by ACT Police as they are now,” Mr Pettersson said.
Asked whether the above scenario was plausible, Mr Pettersson said: “As long as they are individually cultivating them, yes.”
“The legislation deals with the limit as a cultivation limit. This means an individual is allowed to cultivate a maximum of four plants. And it’s worth saying it again; individuals engaging in drug trafficking activities and the sale of cannabis continue to commit drug offences and they will be pursued by ACT Police as they are now,” he said.
The legalisation of cannabis also throws up a few other curly questions, such as whether prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre will be able to access it.
Mr Pettersson said that was a question for Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury, although he noted that the prison maintained lists of contraband items which cannabis would be on currently and could remain on even if made legal.
Mr Rattenbury said it was premature to be speculating about the bill’s implementation in correctional facilities, as it was yet to be debated, let alone passed.
Speaking as the Greens spokesman on drug policy, Mr Rattenbury said the decriminalisation of recreational cannabis would make an important contribution to stopping some people ending up in the justice system.
“Allowing adults in the ACT to possess and use cannabis acknowledges the modern reality that many adults choose to use cannabis,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“This is a small but significant step in a long journey of drug law reform that we hope will ultimately see personal drug use treated as a health issue, rather than as a justice issue. We also note that cannabis is a less harmful drug than most other illicit drugs, and making it more easily accessible could well reduce use of other more damaging drugs.”
There’s also the question of where you can grow it. Could you, for example, grow cannabis in a community garden or on your verge?
“There are exist guidelines about what can and cannot be done on nature strips with an application process for more extensive work. It is worth noting that there is a 50cm height limit on verges for plants that would make planting a cannabis plant on the verge counterproductive. It is also worth pointing out that it requires preparation for the plant to become a consumable drug,” Mr Pettersson said.
Mr Rattenbury noted as the nature strip guidelines have not yet been released, this was some what of a “no-man’s land question”.
“I suspect that the legal answer may be that it would be permissible to grow your four plants in a community garden, but there may be issues around theft,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The bill is expected to pass when it returns to the ACT Assembly early next year, with Mr Pettersson’s Labor colleagues backing the legislation.
Mr Rattenbury said the Greens intended to support Mr Pettersson’s bill but would look carefully through the detail to ensure it works properly.
“I would highlight that at this stage Mr Petterson’s bill does not address supply issues, unlike the federal Greens proposal. At a national level, the Greens are seeking to not only legalise cannabis, but also establish a new agency to regulate cannabis production and sale,” Mr Rattenbury said.