The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) say changes to NSW’s drug laws are welcome, but need to go further.
The NSW government announced today it would introduce a bill to parliament this week in an effort to reduce drug-related harm and offending.
The change would mean people caught in possession of small amounts of ice, cocaine or MDMA would be fined instead of charged, avoiding a criminal conviction and reducing harm. A similar program was already in place for marijuana.
The changes have been a long time coming, with the recommendations made more than three years ago following a special commission of inquiry into ice use. But don’t bust out the baggies just yet – while the on-the-spot fine of $400 can be issued twice, it can only be waived if the person completes a tailored drug and alcohol intervention program.
In other words, users could work off their fines by seeking treatment.
ADF spokesperson Robert Taylor said the change was a good start.
“Whilst we would prefer fines were removed altogether, this is a move in the right direction.
“The criminalisation of drugs causes negative stigma and stops people who use drugs from reaching out for help and support when they need it most.
“A health-based approach to drug use benefits the whole of community by helping to reduce drug-related deaths and disease, reduce stigma and problematic drug use and see more people reaching out for help and support.”
He said there was a lot of support across Australia for a more health-based approach to personal drug use, including “either no action, a caution or warning, treatment or education, or a fine.”
ADF will be discussing further evidence-based approaches at the NSW drug summit early next year, but will the government listen to reasonable, expert drug advice? I wouldn’t hold my breath but I think it’s fair to say they’re off to a good start.