Australia is one of the highest-ranking countries in the world regarding cannabis prevalence rates. Since early 2020, recreational cannabis has been largely decriminalized in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Medical cannabis is also considered legal at the federal level, and in all states, while the qualifying conditions vary by state.
Let’s see more details about the legality of cannabis cultivation and use in Australia.
Indoor cannabis cultivation is possible in Australia for low-THC strains and only with a special permit from the Federal Government. Cannabis production in Australia is tightly controlled by the state.
Canberra is a notable exception to that rule since it was the first city in Australia to legalize recreational cannabis as of January 2020. Adult citizens are allowed to possess up to 50 grams of dried herb and cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use, making Canberra an ideal place for home growers.
Medical marijuana became legal when Australia’s parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment in 2016. However, it goes without saying that although medicinal cannabis has become more accessible, it is required in every state and territory that the patient advises their doctor or specialist. If eligible and approved, the professional may then make an application to the government in order to gain access to medical cannabis.
The medicinal products must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Currently, only one medicinal cannabis product is registered: Sativex, which has been approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms. To reach other products, doctors must follow the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.
Of course, the laws differ in each state; in the Australian Capital Territory, you can get a prescription for cannabis if your doctor is approved and eligible (see the ACT Health website for details). But what about other states?
In South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland, patients can access medicinal cannabis on prescription from their authorised and approved by Commonwealth and/or state medical practitioner if proven clinically appropriate. Same goes for New South Wales and Victoria. However, in Tasmania, a GP has to refer you to a relevant medical specialist, who may prescribe medical cannabis after the failure of conventional treatments.
Such is the case for patients in the Northern Territory, as well. They have to go through an Australian doctor authorised by the TGA, while the state’s Department of Health also recommends that patients are referred by a GP to an appropriate specialist.
In recent years, the use of recreational cannabis has marked a massive increase in supporters globally, and the same goes for the people Down Under. In a survey conducted in 2019, 36% of Australians over the age of fourteen were found to have used cannabis in their lifetime, while 11.6% had used cannabis during the last 12 months. On 25 September of the same year, the Australian Capital Territory passed a bill allowing for growth and possession of small amounts for personal use beginning 31 January 2020. ACT adult residents are allowed to possess up to 50 grams of flower and 150 grams of wet material, and grow up to four plants per residence, or two per individual.
Incidentally, it remains illegal to smoke or use cannabis in public or expose an underage person to cannabis smoke. It’s also prohibited to store cannabis within children’s reach or grow plants in public access ―while artificial cultivation is also forbidden. Sharing cannabis or driving with any in your system must also be avoided, and it goes without saying that it is illegal for all underage persons to possess, grow or consume cannabis.
Cultivation of a cannabis plant without artificial enhancement, possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis, or up to 20 grams of cannabis resin, and/or smoking implements can be expiated by a police officer, otherwise you’re facing a maximum of a $500–$1000 fine, as well as the possibility of a criminal conviction in your record. Sale, trafficking and/or cultivation of a commercial quantity carry a maximum fine of up to $200,000 and up to 25 years imprisonment.
Any individual found in possession of 10 grams of cannabis or less may receive a notice to attend a mandatory counselling session, while larger quantities face a fine of up to $2,000, and/or 2 years imprisonment. Possession of more than 100g of cannabis carries a charge of $20,000 or 2 years imprisonment, and penalties of up to $24,000 are charged to shops selling cannabis smoking implements to minors and up to $10,000 for selling to adults.
Anyone found to be carrying cannabis of less than 50 grams may be offered a drug diversion program, if they have no other offence in their record. Importation and trafficking of dangerous drugs are serious criminal offences, carrying the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
If an individual is found in possession of 15 grams of cannabis or less, they may be diverted to a drug diversion program at police discretion, while possession of a larger quantity faces a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to $2,200. Cultivating commercial quantities of cannabis faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or a $550,000 fine, while smaller quantities carry a penalty of 15–20 years and $220,000–$385,000 at most.
Up to three cautions for a drug diversion program can be issued for possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis, while possession of any related implements is also regarded as a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of $7,950 and/or 2 years imprisonment. Trafficking faces imprisonment of up to 21 years.
A diversion program is also boosted by this state, in hope of treating and educating offenders. Possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis carries a notice and the opportunity to attend an education program (Victoria Cannabis Cautioning Program), twice at most.
Any person found in possession of 50 grams of cannabis, 10 grams of hash or cannabis seed/s, 1 gram of hash oil, or two plants can be fined $200, and if used in public, there is a penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment. Exposing a child to cannabis cultivation carries a penalty of life imprisonment, while the maximum charge for trafficking is up to 25 years.