Canberra could soon be home to Amsterdam-style cafes that sell marijuana joints and hash cookies – with drug experts saying it was only a matter of time.
In an Australia first, from January 31 next year it will be legal for adults in the Australian Capital Territory to carry 50 grams of cannabis and grow two plants.
It passed the Legislative Assembly this week with the support of Labor and the Greens, and the Liberals fear cafes selling cannabis cakes will be next.
There are also fears more drivers could soon be convicted of drug driving with one of Australia’s leading drug experts questioning the science behind random roadside tests for cannabis.
The legalisation of marijuana has proven to be a slippery slope to cafes selling joints, hash cookies and cannabis cakes, at least in the Netherlands.
Canberra could soon be home to Amsterdam-style cafes (like the one pictured) that sell marijuana joints and hash cookies – with drug experts saying it was only a matter of time
In 1972, Dutch lawmakers legalised marijuana for personal use after Pieter Baan, the chief inspector of mental health, recommended decriminalising the possession of small quantities of soft drugs.
The first legal ‘coffee shops’ opened in Amsterdam four years later, after the new Opium Act of 1976 distinguished between hard and soft drugs.
It meant these cafes, which had operated illegally since the late 1960s, no longer had to be secret enterprises that only allowed in customers who knocked on the door.
International tourists have since been flocking to the Netherlands to enjoy a joint or a marijuana-infused space cake at one of the many cafes by the canals.
Dr Alex Wodak, the president of the Australian Law Reform Foundation, said Dutch-style cafes would make sense for Canberra.
‘Definitely,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.
‘We need to ultimately regulate cannabis. There are many different ways of doing that but regulation means cultivation, wholesale and retail all have to be regulated by government and taxed as well.’
Dr Wodak argued that making cannabis available at retail outlets like cafes in the ACT would negate the need for a drug user to turn to a harder try drugs once they had exceeded their allowable 50 gram stash.
In an Australia first, from January 31 next year it will be legal for adults in the Australian Capital Territory to carry 50 grams of cannabis and grow two plants (Parliament House pictured)
‘People who want to buy cannabis won’t have the person selling the cannabis saying, “I’ve run out of cannabis but I’ve got some great heroin, I’ve got some great amphetamines and cocaine today’,’ he said.
Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who moved the radical private member’s bill to legalise the possession of pot, has revealed to Daily Mail Australia he ate a chocolate space cake in Amsterdam nine years ago.
‘I first used cannabis when I was in the Netherlands for a holiday,’ he said.
‘I would have been 19. I’ve experimented before as seen by that space cake in Amsterdam.’
Since that time, Mr Petersson has tried marijuana in Australia a ‘handful’ of times – and he did inhale.
Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who moved the radical private member’s bill to legalise the possession of pot, has revealed to Daily Mail Australia he ate a chocolate space cake in Amsterdam nine years ago
‘I don’t particularly enjoy recreational drugs,’ he said.
‘Whilst I was in the Netherlands when I used it, cannabis is freely available in Australia and most people in Australia, if they wanted to smoke cannabis could find a way.’
The ACT’s shadow attorney-general Jeremy Hanson fears the new law could lead to Amsterdam-style cafes opening in Canberra.
‘Under the laws pushed through by the Labor and Greens this week cannabis cannot yet be sold in cafes but it is clear that this is just the first step in a broader drug liberalisation agenda that may see Canberran laws end up similar to Amsterdam,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This agenda should be of real concern to Canberrans given the current state of rampant drug use and out of control crime in Amsterdam.’
The Australian Drug Law Reform said it would make sense for Canberra to allow Dutch-style coffee shops that sold marijuana
Dr Wodak, however, said the 50 gram limit for personal use was too small, adding the ACT needed to amend its laws to eventually allow cannabis to be regulated and sold legally.
‘It’s inevitable they will be amending these laws,’ he said.
‘It’s better than what we had – go on the ACT for doing what they’ve done – but it’s going to need a lot of improvements.
‘We amend our alcohol and tobacco laws constantly – nobody thinks the current laws are perfect.’
Despite his space cake experience, Mr Petersson is not in favour of allowing cafes to sell joints and marijuana biscuits and cakes, arguing it wouldn’t be possible.
Dr Alex Wodak has also spoken out against random police drug tests for marijuana (stock image) after a study published last month in the Drug Testing and Analysis journal found flaws in the the method of detecting THC, the active chemical in cannabis
Since 1992, Canberrans caught with small quantities of marijuana have either been fined $100 or referred to a health professional.
About one-third of people caught with marijuana, however, ended up in court, possibly facing a criminal conviction.
‘A criminal conviction can ruin someone’s life,’ Mr Petersson said.
‘It limits someone’s ability to gain employment, to travel outside this country and for some people end up in jail.’
Dr Wodak has spoken out against random police drug tests for marijuana, after a study published last month in the Drug Testing and Analysis journal found flaws in the the method of detecting THC, the active chemical in cannabis.
Victoria was the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce roadside drug testing in 2004, with all the other states and territories since copying it.
‘It is unscientific and it’s not based on science,’ Dr Wodak said.
‘It’s expensive to operate and we will be currently convicting and punishing innocent drivers and letting guilty drivers go free.’