The Department of Health has backed the introduction of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill but warned that some health and safety issues will need to be addressed.
Presenting to parliament on Tuesday (24 August), the department said that the legal decision to decriminalise cannabis for private use is correct.
It said it is not appropriate from a human rights perspective to lock up people who use cannabis, give them a criminal record and waste state resources.
However, it said that the proposed draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill does not go far enough in addressing concerns around children, second-hand smoke and the impact on road users.
“The bill does address the need to protect children, defined as persons under the age of 18, but does not refer specifically to adolescents and does not go far enough in protecting adolescents from access and exposure to cannabis,” it said.
“Among other things, it needs to specify that anyone giving or selling cannabis to a person under 18 or failing to protect a child or adolescent from accessing cannabis should be charged with having committed a Class A offence.”
This should be viewed as a minor offence or infringement, the department said.
The department also said that there is a real risk of substantial exposure of people who do not use cannabis to second-hand cannabis smoke.
“It might be helpful to specify a distance, whether inside or outside. The purpose of the bill is ‘private’ use, and smoking in the presence of children and adolescents or non-consenting adults cannot be deemed private.”
The department also warned that cannabis use affects perceptual motor functioning and thus increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes.
“The bill does take this into account to some extent by amending the National Road Traffic Act, but sufficient attention and resources need to be given to training and equipping police to detect cannabis-impaired driving and prosecuting impaired drivers.”
Cannabis for private purposes
The government published the draft Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill for public comment in September 2020.
The draft bill outlines possession rules for cannabis users at home and people who wish to cultivate the plant. It also introduces new offences and provisions for people who previously received a criminal record for cannabis possession.
The draft bill states that an adult person may for personal use:
Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis plant cultivation material;
Cultivate the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a private place;
Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a public place;
Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a private place;
Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public place.
The bill defines a ‘private place’ as any place, including a building, house, room, shed, hut, tent, mobile home, caravan, boat or land or any portion thereof, to which the public does not have access as of right.
The draft legislation also states that an adult person may, without the exchange of remuneration provide to, or obtain from, another adult person, for personal use the prescribed quantity of:
Cannabis plant cultivation material;
The draft bill sets outs ‘prescribed quantities’ for both personal use and cultivation purposes.
For private use, the limits include:
Unlimited seeds and seedlings;
Four flowering plants for those living alone, or eight for homes with two adults or more;
600 grams of dried cannabis if you live alone, or 1.2 kilograms in homes with two or more adults;
1.2 kilograms dried cannabis or cannabis equivalent per dwelling, which two or more adult persons occupy.
The bill also allows for the possession of cannabis ‘in private’ in a public place, but this is limited to 100 grams.
The draft bill defines ‘in private’ as to keep, store, transport or be in control of cannabis or a cannabis plant, respectively, in a manner that conceals it from public view.