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Australian Capital Territory votes to legalise cannabis for personal use

Possessing and growing cannabis for personal use will become legal in Australia’s capital.

The laws, which don’t come into effect until 31 January, were passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

They will allow Canberrans over 18 to possess 50 grams of cannabis and grow two plants.

The ACT attorney-general, Gordon Ramsay, told the assembly it was time to treat drug addition like a health issue rather than an issue of “right and wrong”, which is why the laws would be accompanied by more drug and alcohol services and the introduction of specific drug courts.

He acknowledged possessing and growing cannabis would remain a federal offence, and the risk of prosecution was “not entirely removed”, but “in practice” the laws would not apply.

The ACT shadow attorney-general, Jeremy Hanson, told the assembly on Wednesday the Liberal opposition would not be supporting the bill as it was badly drafted and would lead to a number of “perverse outcomes”.

He said it would encourage more people to use cannabis – which medical professionals say would lead to increased rates of psychosis – and more people would be charged with drug-driving.

And the fact it conflicted with commonwealth law would be confusing for police.

“This puts not only individuals at a greater level of risk but our police will be out there on the beat working in this unclear legal framework,” Hanson said.

A review of the laws will be conducted within three years.

Residents of the bush capital wouldn’t be able to light up immediately, with the ACT’s health minister needing to sign off on when the law would come into effect.

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who introduced the private members bill, said a defence exists for cannabis use under commonwealth law if the use is excused or justified by state or territory law.