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A State-by-State Guide to Cannabis in Australia

Cannabis is largely illegal in Australia, but the rules differ from state to state. Here’s what to know about cannabis in all eight areas of the country.

Australia made waves when it federally legalised medicinal cannabis in 2016, and its marijuana market has experienced significant growth since then.

A study from FreshLeaf Analytics pegs Australian medical market sales at AU$95 million in 2020, while research firm Prohibition Partners indicates that Oceania’s cannabis industry is expected to be worth US$1.55 billion by 2024; medicinal cannabis is expected to account for 40 percent of the industry.

Despite that growth, the country’s cannabis industry is still young. Recreational use is not yet in sight, and even medical access remains limited and highly regulated.


Currently only one medicinal cannabis product, Sativax, is registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and none are subsidised through the country’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Patients who want access to medicinal cannabis must go through special pathways, and doctors who want to prescribe medicinal cannabis have to apply to do so.

The situation gets more complex at the state and territory level, as each area of Australia has different rules and regulations that must be followed. Read on for a breakdown of the laws for medicinal and recreational cannabis in Australia’s six states and two territories.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: New South Wales

Use, supply and possession of cannabis is illegal in New South Wales (NSW); however, first-time offenders with a small amount on hand may only be issued a caution. Up to two cautions can be received, and they often come with a referral for drug-related information.

The NSW government recognises the potential of medicinal cannabis to treat debilitating or terminal illnesses. Any doctor can prescribe medicinal cannabis if it is determined an appropriate treatment and the doctor has the approvals required to do so.

In another show of support for the drug, the NSW government has established the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation to educate the community and monitor clinical trials.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Victoria

Recreational possession and use of cannabis is a criminal offence in Victoria, but similar to NSW, those caught with a first offence of 50 grams or less are typically given a caution and directions to attend drug counselling. It’s more serious if there are additional charges or if a person is found with an amount over 50 grams; 250 grams is considered a traffickable quantity of cannabis.

Medicinal cannabis can be prescribed by any doctor for a patient with any condition if they believe it is clinically appropriate. Victoria was the first state to legalise medical marijuana use, and young children suffering from epilepsy were the first to gain access.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Queensland

In Queensland, growing cannabis or recreational use is illegal under four different acts. Under the Drug Misuse Act 1986, unlawful possession, supply, production and trafficking have maximum penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment, depending on circumstances such as how much cannabis is involved.

Medicinal use is less frowned upon in Queensland as any registered medical practitioner in the state can prescribe medicinal cannabis if clinically appropriate.

After new legislation changes in June 2020, any Queensland doctor can prescribe Schedule 4 CBD or Schedule 8 THC or CBD products without formal approval from state health authorities.

Medicinal cannabis can be administered via vapour, capsules, sprays or tinctures — smoking cannabis is not allowed in Queensland. Interestingly, advertising medicinal cannabis is restricted to the medical, wholesale and pharmaceutical professions only.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: South Australia

Cannabis, cannabis oil and cannabis resin are all illegal to keep, use, grow, sell or give away in South Australia. Possession for personal use can be penalised with an expiation, which means a fine that does not attract a criminal conviction. Large-scale trafficking or selling can attract big penalties of up to AU$500,000 and 15 years to life imprisonment, or both.

Those looking for medical cannabis products can obtain them via prescription from an authorised medical practitioner in the region.

Approval under South Australian Controlled Substances legislation is also often required, although there are exemptions for elderly and terminal patients.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Western Australia

Even though Western Australia (WA) officially decriminalised cannabis in 2004, Liberal Premier Colin Barnett repealed the decision in 2011 as part of a “tough on crime” approach.

Today, driving with THC in your system is an offence in WA, regardless of whether it is medicinal or recreational. Personal cultivation is illegal.

Medicinal cannabis is available via prescription from any doctor in WA providing they have the required government approval. Prescriptions can be dispensed at any pharmacy.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Tasmania

Obtaining medicinal cannabis is arguably most complicated in Tasmania. A patient must have their general practitioner refer them to a relevant specialist; the specialist can then provide medicinal cannabis in limited circumstances once conventional treatment has been unsuccessful.

Tasmania is taking steps to make medicinal cannabis more accessible. Starting on July 1, 2021, general practitioners will be able to fill out prescriptions, although the process is still expected to be slow.

Possession of cannabis is illegal in Tasmania — in fact, any utensil or appliance for preparation, smoking, or inhalation of cannabis is illegal and can attract a maximum fine of AU$7,950. Trafficking an amount of 25 grams of oil or 1 kilogram of plant material carries a serious imprisonment term of up to 21 years.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Northern Territory

Cannabis is largely decriminalised in the NT, but possession of a small quantity in a public place still carries an imprisonment penalty. Possession of less than 50 grams in your own home is penalised with a fine only. The penalty for cultivating, even small amounts of less than five plants, is 200 penalty units or two years imprisonment. A commercial quantity of more than 20 plants results in life imprisonment.

The first NT medicinal cannabis patient to fill a script did so in November 2019, but uptake has been slow since then and the NT has a low number of users. That’s largely because there are few doctors who are authorised prescribers in the NT — as the area is remote, travel is not feasible for all residents.

Guide to Cannabis in Australia: Australian Capital Territory

In September 2019, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed a bill to legalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use as of January 31, 2020. Confusingly, the ACT’s state laws conflict with federal laws, which still prohibit the recreational use of cannabis.

ACT residents who are over 18 can carry up to 50 grams of cannabis and grow as many as four plants — although the 50 gram amount is less than what one plant produces. Plants must also be grown outdoors only, leaving them open to theft.

Medicinal cannabis is available for patients with a number of conditions and also on a case-by-case basis. Doctors must have approval from the ACT chief health officer and the TGA to prescribe.

Don’t forget to follow @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Zelira Therapeutics Ltd (ASX: ZLD) (OTCQB: ZLDAF), a global leader in the research and development of clinically validated cannabinoid medicines, is pleased to announce the US launch of the Zelira Dermatology Business’ first product line, RAF FIVE ™ through its dermatology subsidiary Ilera Derm LLC (“Zelira Dermatology”).

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  • Peak Processing Solutions (Peak), subsidiary of Althea Group Holdings (ASX: AGH) (Althea) has entered into agreements with BBCCC, Inc., The Boston Beer Company (NYSE: SAM) (‘BBC’), and WeedMD Rx Inc., a subsidiary of Entourage Health Corp. (‘Entourage’)
  • Under the product development agreement, Peak will provide research and development services including laboratory support and the testing of various product formulations and recipes, for the new line of BBC products
  • BBC will provide Peak with funding of up to USD$2m for capital improvements associated with the development project. In addition, Peak will receive a minimum of USD$285,000 for each year of the Term of the agreement (totalling USD$1.42m )
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  • Entourage will be responsible for distribution and sales of the cannabis-infused beverages in Canada

Peak Processing Solutions, a subsidiary of Althea Group Holdings Limited (ASX: AGH) (‘Peak’ or ‘the Company’) is a leading developer, manufacturer, and distributor of cannabis infused edible, topical, and concentrate products is pleased to announce that the Company has entered into agreements with WeedMD Rx Inc., a subsidiary of (TSXV: ENTG) (OTCQX: WDDMF) (‘Entourage’) and BBCCC, Inc., a subsidiary of the Boston Beer Company Inc. (NYSE: SAM) (‘BBC’).

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Sydney, Australia (ABN Newswire) – Medlab Clinical Ltd (ASX.MDC), an Australian biotech using delivery platforms to enhance medicines is pleased to announce the execution of a Master Services Agreement (MSA) with WEP Clinical Ltd (WEP) for the exclusive development and delivery of Named Patient Programmes relating to the unlicensed supply of its proprietary NanaBis(TM) and NanoCBD(TM) to patients in the UK and Europe.

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carbon emissions

Following international pressure, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In a last-minute commitment after months of debate, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, expecting to meet the goal largely through technology development.

The move comes following international pressure as Australia had previously refused to join countries in pledging to meet the target ahead of the United Nations' COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

However, the plan unveiled on Tuesday (October 26), which includes a government investment of AU$20 billion, does not strengthen the target set for 2030, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australia is on track to beat its Paris Agreement goal, cutting emissions by 30 to 35 percent by that decade.


"We will do this the Australian way," Morrison said ahead of a press conference, announcing investments in new energy technologies like hydrogen and low-cost solar.

An Australian hydrogen industry could be worth more than AU$50 billion in 2050, according to the government. Meanwhile, expanding production and processing of metals like lithium, nickel, copper and uranium could together be worth around AU$85 billion in exports in 2050.

That said, Australia will continue to be heavily dependent on fossil fuels as the plan will not shut down coal or gas production. The country is a major coal player, with the third largest reserves in the world, but its reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita.

"We want our heavy industries, like mining, to stay open, remain competitive and adapt, so they remain viable for as long as global demand allows," Morrison said. "We will not support any mandate — domestic or international — to force closure of our resources or agricultural industries."

Australia's desire to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 is a step in the right direction, Prakash Sharma, Wood Mackenzie's Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions, said.

"Our analysis shows that Australia can reach net zero emissions by 2050," he said. The country's major trading partners — China, Japan and South Korea — are already in transition towards that goal.

According to Wood Mackenzie, nearly 83 percent of Australia's power generation will come from solar and wind by 2050, as compared to about 20 percent last year. Natural gas, bio energy, geothermal and small modular reactors will supply the remaining 17 percent in power output. Coal into power is expected to be phased out by 2035.

"Although the pathway requires complete transformation of its traditional energy and export sectors, there are significant opportunities to capitalise on and protect future revenues," Sharma said.

"This will require Australia to become a significant player in low-carbon hydrogen trade as well as being able to offer carbon storage and offset services."

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the prime minister's commitment to reach net zero by 2050, but said the mid-century goal is only meaningful with deep cuts to climate pollution this decade.

"Unless the government sets the wheels in motion to cut our emissions in half by 2030, it is making climate change worse and turning its back on the opportunities," said Chief Executive Kelly O'Shanassy.

"Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy," she added. "We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent, but we cannot delay any longer."

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

map showing Victoria, Australia

The state of Victoria completed an inquiry on cannabis earlier this year. Will it actually change anything for the drug?

In August, the government of Victoria, Australia, released the results of its inquiry into the use of cannabis, taking into account 1,475 written submissions, dozens of expert witnesses and two minority reports.

A few months on, Australia-focused cannabis investors are wondering whether the document's findings will have an impact on cannabis use in the state, or even in the country as a whole.

The short answer? Probably not. But there's more to the story than that.


Why did Victoria conduct a cannabis inquiry?

Back in May 2019, Victoria's Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee agreed to complete an inquiry on cannabis in the state. Although it was initially due for completion in March 2020, the deadline was extended twice, first to March 2021 and then again to August 2021.

Chaired by Reason Party Member of Parliament Fiona Patten, whose party supports legalising cannabis, the committee broadly looked at two streams of cannabis policy reform. One, the legalisation of cannabis for adult personal use, and two, a legalised and regulated cannabis market.

The report puts forth 17 recommendations and 21 findings, but Patten said after its release that the Labor-heavy committee banded together to water down certain recommendations prior to the drafting of the report.

For example, according to reports from the Age, the first recommendation of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria became "Recommendation 1: That the Victorian Government investigates the impacts of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria."

Evidence from the inquiry suggests that legalising cannabis would keep young and vulnerable people out of the criminal justice system, with state parliament estimates suggesting Victoria would save AU$725 million over 10 years in police and justice costs.

Key highlights from Victoria's cannabis inquiry

Recommendations from the report broadly fall several categories: investigating a legalised and regulated market; health and safety; and education for minors.

Here's a wrap up of the main items the Victorian government was told to look at:

  • Investigate the impact of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria.
  • Consider referring an inquiry to Victorian Law Reform Commission to investigate state and Commonwealth laws inhibiting legislation and regulation of the cannabis market.
  • Provide ongoing funding to alcohol and drug sector organisations for drug diversion programs, and further funding to areas in regional and rural Victoria.
  • Implement a road safety campaign about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis.
  • Look at alternative testing methods for "drug driving," as current methods mean THC can be detected in a person's system long after being "affected by the drug," especially in the case of medicinal cannabis patients.
  • Advocate to the National Cabinet to remove unnecessary barriers for accessing medicinal cannabis.
  • Seek expert help on school drug education, avoid stigmatising users and promote help-seeking behaviour.

Minority reports included in Victoria's inquiry

Liberal Democrat David Limbrick, who participated in the inquiry, was "extremely disappointed" with the last-minute changes mentioned above and submitted a minority report in favour of legalisation.

It broadly supports the public policy Liberal Democrats have towards cannabis which is: "The Liberal Democrats support the legalisation of use, cultivation, processing, possession, transport and sale of cannabis, with protection of minors and penalties for driving while impaired."

A second minority report is also included — it comes from the Liberals and Nationals, both of which are firmly against legalising cannabis in order to protect public health and children. Signed by three members, it states that legalising cannabis only provides ready access and no deterrent to prevent cannabis use. They further wrote:

"The Liberals and Nationals support drug education programs warning of the harms of illicit substances, we support diversion programs that help get people off drugs, and we support other support services for those addicted to drugs. However, we do not support legalising cannabis."

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Glenn Weir told the inquiry in June that the use, cultivation and trafficking of marijuana causes "significant harm," and said he is firmly opposed to legalisation.

Will the inquiry impact cannabis legalisation in Australia?

Any hopes of legalisation were quickly dashed after the report's release by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, whose focus is on job creation and economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to reporters after it came out, he said he has "no intention" of legalising cannabis.

"If you want to know why, then have a look at the sections in the mental health royal commission that talk about dual diagnosis, drug-induced psychosis," he told reporters outside parliament.

"Others have a different view, they're entitled to have a different view, but as the leader of the government I've just made the government's position very clear."

The lack of support by major state parties for the Victorian inquiry may speak to a wider delay nationally for supporting decriminalising and legalising cannabis. Combined with the narrow defeat of the cannabis legalisation referendum in New Zealand, it does not look like legalisation is likely anytime soon.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.