ACT Greens to move to allow hydroponic cannabis in Canberra

The ACT Greens will move amendments to planned reforms to legalise cannabis possession to allow Canberrans to cultivate hydroponic cannabis in their homes, when a bill from Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson is debated this week.

The cannabis bill will be one of the top hot-button issues debated when the Legislative Assembly sits from Tuesday for its first fortnight this year, along with proposed changes to tenancy laws, political donations laws and the state of the government's budget.

ACT Greens minister Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Alex Ellinghuasen

ACT Greens minister Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Alex Ellinghuasen

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said the minor party would pose several amendments to Mr Pettersson's bill including allowing the use of artificial light and methods to grow up to four cannabis plants per adult in Canberra homes.

While Labor has largely endorsed the bill, some executive amendments are expected and the Opposition opposes it in its current form.

The bill, which was introduced last year and is expected to be debated in principle next Wednesday, currently only allows cultivation of up to four plants for each adult by natural methods, and removes the offence of possession for people holding up to 50 grams of cannabis.

While the current bill has no limit on the size of cannabis plants that would be allowed to be grown, the plant is often grown using hydroponic methods under artificial lights that can lead to larger crops than natural methods.

Mr Rattenbury said the Greens would also move to increase the allowable amount of cannabis for people to possess for medicinal use, create an advisory council to give the government expert advice on the issue and introduce new objectives for drugs of dependence laws to enshrine a harm minimisation approach.

He said the minor party's amendments would acknowledge the reality that many Canberrans used cannabis recreationally anyway, and that only allowing natural cultivation methods meant growing the plant was not viable for many months of the year in the capital.

"A change to ACT cannabis law will also hopefully help people suffering serious illnesses to have easier access to cannabis for medicinal use as we know that the ACT’s medicinal cannabis scheme remains overly restrictive and hard to access," Mr Rattenbury said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr will also outline his priorities for 2019 this week and on Tuesday publish the territory's mid-year budget update.

The Assembly will debate proposed electoral law changes to ban political donations from property developers, which the Greens will move to extend to unions and non-profits such as clubs, as well as capping donations at $10,000.

Both the minor party and the Opposition are expected to come to logger-heads over proposed new tenancy laws. The Greens are pushing to abolish no cause evictions, while the Liberals want several measures wound back.

The Opposition is also expected to move its third motion of no-confidence in Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris, after a series of scandals involving bullying in the health system and the territory's poor performance in waiting times.

Labor and the Greens last year twice rejected similar motions from Opposition health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne, but Mrs Dunne is expected to try again, saying Ms Fitzharris needed to step aside, "out of respect for Canberra health workers and patients".

Ms Fitzharris has repeatedly admitted to problems in the health directorate, but said she was working to improve them, rebuffing the Opposition's previous motions of no-confidence.

The Liberals will also introduce another bill to tighten the territory's anti-consorting laws, in the wake of a recent outlaw motorcyle gang-related shooting and call on the government to put up more flashing lights at school crossings and employ more staff to help children cross safely.