ACT Chief Police Ray Johnson comments on cannabis legalisation

ACT Police Chief comments on negatives of cannabis legalisation

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Key points

  • Police Chief cites federal laws overpower state laws
  • Deeming cannabis still illegal federally if ACT were to legalise

Ray Johnson, the current Chief Police Officer of ACT recently commented on the proposed cannabis legalisation bill set forward by Michael Pettersson of Labor.

The Police Chief cited a few areas of concern surrounding potential consequences should cannabis become legal in ACT.

First, was the fact that, even if it were to become legal to consume, cultivate, and possess recreational cannabis in ACT, it would still be illegal under the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967 of  Commonwealth Law.

Under Australia’s Constitution in Chapter 5-109, it states:

When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.

In other words, Australia Federal Police (AFP) can still bust you for recreational cannabis, even though your state may have made it legal. Tough luck.

Let’s take a look at what other countries have done, in particular, the USA. Have they legalised it federally? Nope. And it’s not an issue at all.

Cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use is still illegal nationwide in the USA under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Plenty of states have already legalised it, and the DEA isn’t going around busting everyone in sight. Why? Because they’ve got better things to do.

The same stance should be taken in Australia. The AFP should focus on more important issues rather than “leave[ing] individual police officers exposed to potential allegations that they breached the AFP Code of Conduct, allegations of impropriety or failure to act and carry out their duties”, as stated by the Police Chief.

In addition to worrying about the AFP, he was concerned about the policy allowing a person to grow two plants would attract criminal organisation to the ACT to start new grow operations.

The proposed allowance of legitimate growth of cannabis in the ACT would potentially remove this risk, making the ACT more attractive to organised crime groups as a place to grow cannabis for both internal and external markets.

We disagree.

Although plants can be trained to produce higher-than-normal cannabis yields, as seen in the image below, the resources required to set up the operation across multiple premises would arguably deem the revenues unprofitable.

Cannabis plants trained to grow larger yields
Cannabis plants trained to grow larger yields

Lastly, the proposed legalisation bill would seek to remove the current Simple Cannabis Offence Notice of 1992 which issues an on-the-spot fine of $100 instead of a criminal conviction for cannabis.

In an assessment backed up by the ACT Law Society, the removal of that piece of legislation would open up simple cannabis offences to criminal punishment of up to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $8,000 under Commonwealth Law.

Again, this would be left up to the AFP to investigate as they handle offences against the Commonwealth. As mentioned earlier, we hope the AFP have got better things to do.

If you’d like to read the Police Chief’s full submission, you can download the PDF.

The Inquiry into Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill is currently set to hold hearings on:

  • 26 March – 10:00am – 12:45pm
  • 29 March – 1:30pm – 4:00pm
  • 3 May – 10:00am – 3:00pm

The public is welcome to attend and will be held in Committee Room 1 (unless otherwise indicated) of the Legislative Assembly building. Alternatively, you can watch it streamed live on the Assembly on Demand.

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Stay informed with the latest cannabis news in Australia.

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