The ACT has become the first Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise illicit drugs in small quantities. We love to see a shred of progressive policy making.
Under the new laws, if you’re found with certain drugs within the “personal possession” limit, you’ll cop a $100 fine, a diversion or a caution instead of prison time. You can also choose to attend a drug diversion program instead of paying the fine.
The laws won’t kick in until October 2023. Once they’re up and running, however, they’ll apply to drugs including cocaine (1.5 grams), heroin (2 grams), MDMA (3 grams), methamphetamine (1.5 grams), amphetamine (2 grams), psilocybin (2 grams), lysergic acid (0.002 grams) and LSD (0.002 grams), per the ABC.
The new laws came about ‘cos Labor’s Michael Pettersson first introduced a private members bill to parliament in 2021, which essentially argued that drug use is a health issue not a criminal issue.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor praised the ACT government for passing the law, but said the foundation would’ve preferred different outcomes for folks found with certain drugs within the “personal possession” limit.
“Whilst we would prefer fines were removed altogether, and penalties removed for people found with drugs below trafficable quantities, this is a step in the right direction,” she said in a media release.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the laws were focused on harm-minimisation, rather than punishing drug users.
“We know that treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one is not only reducing harm for those individuals who use drugs, but also ultimately ends up building a safer community, “she said, per the ABC.
“It both reduces harm associated with engagement with the criminal justice system – which is a harm in itself – [and] reduces the stigma associated with drug use and encourages people to come forward for the support and treatment that is going to help them recover from their dependence.”
Stephen-Smith said the ACT government will still take a “strong stance” against drug dealers rather than users, and that illicit drugs are “harmful”, per SBS.
The state government also hasn’t changed the quantity of drugs under “personal possession”.
Friendly reminder that the ACT is the only state-slash-territory which has decriminalised weed. Look, I know we shit on Canberra a lot but I’m seriously considering a cheeky house move at this news.
It’d be fkn great to see the rest of the country decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs, as well. Let’s have widespread pill testing and medically supervised injecting rooms too, please.