Australia: University of NSW Law Journal – A Precarious High – Cannabis Decriminalisation, Authorisation and Federalism

Australia: University of NSW Law Journal – A Precarious High – Cannabis Decriminalisation, Authorisation and Federalism

Authored By:  Julian R Murphy


On 31 January 2020, the cultivation and possession of small amounts of cannabis became legal under the law of the Australian Capital Territory (‘ACT’) with the coming into effect of the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Act 2019 (ACT). This appeared to be a significant milestone in Australia’s regulation of personal drug use. As had already occurred with ‘pill testing’,1 the ACT appeared to be breaking new ground in harm minimisation drug policies while the rest of Australia watched on. The new ACT law could have been a paradigm example of laboratory federalism, whereby a small jurisdiction experiments with laws and policies that are not yet palatable or feasible elsewhere in the country.2 It seems unlikely, however, that the story will be that simple. The federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has said that the new ACT law does not provide a defence to the federal cannabis possession offence.3 Porter has pointedly remarked that he expects the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) to continue enforcing the federal offence.4 Accordingly, ACT residents growing or possessing small amounts of cannabis run the risk of federal prosecution. This situation is unsatisfactory and untenable for a number of reasons, but particularly because of the way the Damoclean sword of federal prosecution is being used to deter conduct that has been decriminalised by the democratic processes of the ACT.




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Author Bios

Matt Maurer – Minden Gross
Jeff Hergot – Wildboer Dellelce LLP

Costa Rica
Tim Morales – The Cannabis Industry Association Costa Rica

Elvin Rodríguez Fabilena


Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

Jerry Chesler – Chesler Consulting

Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Otis Felder – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

New Jersey

Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

Washington DC
Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild