Cannabis was high on Australia’s regulatory agenda in September, with two significant developments. In our last post we discussed the tabling of Professor John McMillan AO’s Final Report in Parliament on 5 September 2019, which recommended extensive amendments to the regime for cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis in Australia. In this post we discuss the move to legalise the personal possession and use of small amounts of cannabis in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

On 25 September 2019, the ACT Legislative Assembly voted to legalise the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis under the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill 2018 (ACT) (Bill). The changes will allow adults to possess up to 50 grams of dry cannabis (or 150 grams of fresh or ‘wet’ cannabis) per person, grow two plants per person, and grow up to four plants at any one household. The amendments have been approved in principle and will come into effect on 31 January 2020. The ACT is the first Australian state/territory to legalise the personal use of cannabis.

However, a number of prohibitions and restrictions still apply, including that only adults (over the age of 18 years) will be permitted to cultivate and smoke cannabis on private premises. Smoking cannabis in a public place will remain an offence.

The Bill will make it an offence to:

  1. expose children to cannabis smoke or vapour and to store harvested cannabis in a place which is accessible to children; and
  2. cultivate a cannabis plant in a place other than where the person resides, and it will be an offence for a person to cultivate a cannabis plant in a place that is lawfully accessible to a member of the public.

It will remain an offence to cultivate “artificial” cannabis, defined as hydroponic cultivation or cultivation with the application of an artificial source of light or heat.

The ACT Government’s move to legalise recreational cannabis stems from an acknowledgement that the outright prohibition model is not effective and that evidence from reforms in other countries shows that a harm minimisation approach delivers better outcomes for individuals and communities.

However, the ACT legislation conflicts with Commonwealth laws which prohibit possession of cannabis for personal recreational use. It is yet to be understood how the ACT legalisation will interact with Commonwealth law and whether the Federal Government will take action to override the ACT amendments. For further guidance please contact us on the details below


Peter Debney is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's Corporate Markets Practice Group in Sydney and advises clients across a board range of industries.


Sabrina Chan is a Senior Associate in Baker McKenzie's Intellectual Property practice group in Sydney. Sabrina specializes in the areas of life sciences, medical technologies and pharmaceutical law,


Alanna Rennie is an associate in Baker McKenzie's Corporate Markets Practice Group in Sydney.