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Majority of Australians Support Cannabis Legalization, and Legislators are Taking Notice

Cannabis Legislation in Australia

For decades there has been a conversation in Australia about decriminalizing cannabis. Recent research now indicates that the majority (66%) of the Australian population supports decriminalization of possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. Legislative trends toward legalization in Australia are picking up speed as community attitudes change.

Current Legal Status of Cannabis in Australia

Growing cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes was legalized under federal law in 2016. Low-THC hemp foods were then legalized federally in 2017. Recreational use, though, remains prohibited under federal law. Similarly, at the state and territory level it is mostly illegal to use, possess, grow, and sell cannabis.

Proposed Legislation for Legalizing Recreational Cannabis in Australia

If passed, the Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023 would change the federal landscape. It would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use in Australia. The Bill would establish the Cannabis Australia National Agency as a statutory agency to register cannabis strains and regulate cannabis activities. These activities include growing and possessing plants, processing, manufacturing, and selling cannabis products, operating cannabis cafes, and importing and exporting cannabis products.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is presently conducting an inquiry into the Bill. The Bill is expected to be debated in federal parliament later this year. Despite shifting public attitudes federal legalization may still be a way off. The federal Bill has been promoted by a minority party and it does not have the support of the ruling party or the major opposition party. It also lacks the support of the Australian Medical Association.

Just as in the United States, cannabis legislation in Australia at the state level has been out of step with federal legislation, but there is rapid change afoot. Since 2020, possession of small amounts of cannabis, growing small numbers of plants, and using cannabis at home have been legalized in the Australian Capital Territory. The New South Wales parliament is now considering bills for legalization, including for medicinal users while driving. In Victoria, parliament is debating measures that would allow adults to legally possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use.

Australia’s state legislatures will move at different speeds on this issue, but undeniably they are moving quickly in response to public sentiment, which shows majority support for legalization of adult/recreational cannabis.

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Legal Support for Cannabis Businesses in Australia

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Our Australia cannabis services include:

Harris Sliwoski’s bold, innovative, and connected approach has made us a leading name in international law, and we are staunchly committed to our clients’ success.

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Preparing for Legalization in Australia

Australia’s state legislatures will move at different speeds on cannabis legalization, but undeniably they are moving in response to public sentiment, which shows increasing support for legalization of adult/recreational cannabis;

The trend toward legalization for adult/recreational use of cannabis in Australia is clear, and with a population of over 25 million, Australia is an exciting market for cannabis businesses. Indeed, in 2018 the Australian Federal Parliamentary Budget Office found that taxing and regulating cannabis could provide up to $1.5 billion (USD) to the Australian economy annually.

As in other jurisdictions, medical cannabis is leading the way in Australia, and we have seen in other jurisdictions that the companies licensed to deliver medical cannabis products and services are often best positioned to thrive when adult/recreational use is legalized. As a result, now is a good time for interested parties to think about moving forward with their Australian cannabis plans.

Today, the race is on for market share in the cannabis industry around the world as laws continue to change. Harris Sliwoski has a long history of providing international cannabis ventures with the legal planning, regulatory support, corporate and transactional guidance, and compliance strategies they need. Our lawyers – who have on-the-ground experience in nearly two dozen countries – understand international laws, legal systems, regulatory environments, and the broader global trade context, and are well known for vetting, structuring and closing complex cross-border transactions. Many of us are leading speakers, thinkers, and advocates in the highly dynamic cannabis sector.

If you’re contemplating a cannabis business venture of any kind in Australia, you will need legal support.

Understanding Australia Cannabis Guidelines

As in the United States and other areas of the world, Australian cannabis law has undergone significant changes in recent years. In 2016, the parliament amended the Narcotic Drugs Act to legalize cannabis growing for scientific and medical applications. In 2017, Food Standards Australia New Zealand made human consumption of hemp legal.

While recreational cannabis use is largely illegal in Australia, the rules differ in each of the country’s eight states. An experienced Australian cannabis lawyer can help you understand the guidelines that apply to your area:

  • New South Wales: While the use, supply and possession of cannabis is still illegal in NSW, individuals with less than 15 grams will only receive a warning for a first offense. Doctors can prescribe medical cannabis upon approval.
  • Victoria: Recreational cannabis use is illegal, although first offenders with 50 grams or less typically receive a warning and directions to attend drug counseling. Possessing 250 grams or 10 plants is considered trafficking.
  • South Australia: Cannabis flower, oil and resin are illegal to keep, sell or gift to others in South Australia. Individuals convicted of trafficking can receive up to a $1 million (AUD) fine and 15 years to life in prison.
  • Western Australia: In Western Australia, the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis results in an intervention process to avoid a conviction. Having more than 10 grams and up to 100 grams carries a fine and two years in jail.
  • Tasmania: General practitioners can prescribe cannabis if they deem it medically appropriate and receive Commonwealth and state approval. However, unsanctioned possession of cannabis and the utensils to prepare, smoke or inhale it are illegal. Police may issue up to three warnings for possessing less than 50 grams.
  • Northern Territory: Possession of even a small amount of cannabis in a public area in the NT can lead to imprisonment. Having less than 50 grams in a private residence can result in a fine. Cultivating five plants or less can also lead to imprisonment, and more than 20 plants carries a maximum lifetime sentence.
  • Queensland: In Queensland, the growing and recreational use of cannabis are illegal under four different acts. Supply, production and trafficking carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Medical practitioners can prescribe cannabis with proper authorization.
  • Australian Capital Territory: ACT residents aged 18 or older can legally possess up to 50 grams of dry cannabis or 150 grams of wet product. They can also grow up to two plants per individual and four per household. Exceeding these limits can result in fines but no criminal charges.

A Harris Sliwoski Australian cannabis attorney can further advise you regarding state-specific legalities.

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An intelligent, timely resource for the cannabis industry

Beyond advising and advocating for individual clients, our cannabis attorneys are committed to fortifying, defending, and building credibility for the industry as a whole. Harris Sliwoski’s cannabis business lawyers are more than legal strategists—they are thought leaders: forward-thinking bloggers, educators, writers, and speakers.

Our cannabis business lawyers regularly write articles for legal journals and frequently post to our acclaimed and widely followed Canna Law Blog. We speak to business and trade groups, academic institutions, and government bodies on a variety of cannabis legal issues, and our cannabis lawyers are frequently quoted by global, national, and local media outlets. We also have compiled a living Cannabis Glossary, to help with industry terminology.

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Our Clients' Successes

“Harris Sliwoski expertly guided us through the formation of our company. They continue to assist with necessary registrations and compliance with numerous regulations. They were able to promptly answer all our many questions and provide understandable options, explanations and practical advice. We expect to continue to use Harris Sliwoski on a regular basis as our company expands. They were also able to introduce us other professional experts. We would not hesitate to recommend Harris Sliwoski to any companies in need of legal advice.”

user icon Three Continents Foods LLC

This law firm was a huge help as our company went through the process of commercial licensing in the California cannabis industry.  They have helped us with a variety of legal issues in a timely fashion, while clearly communicating with us throughout the process.  Everyone we’ve worked with at Harris Sliwoski is an expert in their field and we have always felt that we were in good hands through our legal representation.

user icon Wil Crummer, CEO PRO Farms

Legal stuff is always scary. And I’ve had to play offense a couple times, begrudgingly. To have Harris Sliwoski have my back? It made things a lot less prickly. They quickly walked me through my options, and were refreshingly consistent in their communications, timing and billing. I’ve been lucky to stay out of the legal side of things my whole career, thankfully. When things went a little wrong, Harris Sliwoski quickly made things right.

user icon Aaron Draplin, Founder Draplin Design Co.

I am impressed with this law firm. They answered all my questions regarding cannabis businesses and the California cannabis framework, and they have helped me with a variety of legal issues in a timely fashion, while always clearly communicating with us throughout the process. They also redirected me to other quality people for my business needs. Everyone I worked with at Harris Sliwoski is an expert in their field, and I was in good hands throughout my legal representation.

user icon Corey T., CEO Thinc Cubed, LLC

I have been working with the lawyers at Harris Sliwoski for more than 20 years both as a business owner and as an executive at a large east-coast health system and that is because they have always efficiently provided high level and clear international law advice. Most recently, Harris Sliwoski provided legal support on many matters related to procuring medical products worldwide. Their support was particularly helpful to during the onset of COVID, when there was a big need for securing PPE quickly, all while navigating complicated international and domestic legal requirements. Harris Sliwoski’s team of international lawyers helped by conducting rapid-fire due diligence on potential suppliers, navigating the legal logistics for getting product from overseas and through U.S. customs, and drafting contracts to protect against various sorts of horribles. They did this by essentially providing what amounted to 24/7 service. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

user icon Dan Pak Hospital Supply Chain Executive

Harris Sliwoski has represented our company in the legal cannabis industry for years. Harris Sliwoski has advised us in a wide variety of legal matters, and they are truly experts in their field. I would highly recommend Harris Sliwoski to anyone with questions about cannabis law, or any legal matters. They have been great for our Company, and will continue to guide us as our industry evolves

user icon Matt Hurt, COO Cannabis Nation

You won’t find a better partner than Harris Sliwoski when trying to navigate the complex world of healthcare regulations.  They not only give sound and reliable legal advice, but they are also very responsive and are able to guide you in a way that helps you reach your business objectives as well.

user icon Joseph Axelrod, General Counsel Irwin Naturals

When we started the process of building a ‘seed to sale’ cannabis company in Oregon, we saw the need for expert legal counsel.  The cannabis sector is fraught with potential peril at every turn, and we wanted the best legal advice we could find.  After talking to several firms and individuals, we feel extremely fortunate to have chosen Harris Sliwoski as our legal counsel.

user icon Tony Theiss, CEO and Co-Founder Redbarn Cannabis 

We use Harris Sliwoski on all our international legal matters, including on our international litigation matters. We have over the last few years been involved in a couple big international legal disputes and Harris Sliwoski’s international dispute resolution team provided us with expert legal assistance on both matters. They were always very careful to explain to us what they were doing and why and what their actions would likely cost us in legal fees. Most importantly, we did extremely well on both cases and I have no doubt Harris Sliwoski was a big factor in that.

user icon Kevin English, CEO We Are Camp

We have used Harris Sliwoski for legal help related to our international manufacturing. The lawyers with whom I worked had extensive familiarity with the international legal issues involved in our various projects and offered us key insights. I particularly appreciated how they always quickly and efficiently do what they say they will do and always within their cost estimates.

user icon Andrea Barona Valladolid, Senior Legal Counsel Fairphone