The Guardian Reports

The Australian Capital Territory law to legalise cannabis possession appears to “do nothing to end the continuing operation” of commonwealth offences, Christian Porter has warned.

The attorney general’s comments to Guardian Australia suggest Canberra cannabis users will be left in legal limbo when the laws take effect from February, contradicting the ACT government’s claim that its law provides a defence to the federal offence.

The Morrison government has stepped up its rhetoric against the laws. On Monday the health minister, Greg Hunt, accused the ACT government of being “blind and indifferent to the health consequences” of cannabis after asking it what medical evidence was considered before legalising it.

In September the ACT legislative assembly passed laws allowing adult residents to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and grow two plants, up to a total of four plants per household.

Federal law prohibits cannabis possession but the ACT pushed ahead citing clauses which allow a defence for people engaged in conduct “justified or excused” by a state or territory law.

Porter said he was still considering the issue “on its merits” and had received a final copy of the ACT law only on Monday.

“Based on a preliminary examination of the ACT legislation, it would appear it does nothing to end the continuing operation of commonwealth laws with respect to possession of a prohibited substance, which would continue to make possession of amounts of cannabis under 50g unlawful in the ACT,” he told Guardian Australia.

“Nevertheless, I shall be considering options and will of course respond directly to the ACT attorney general in due course.”