Major Australian cities decriminalize possession of small amounts of illegal drugs – including heroin, speed and cocaine – in national first
- The ACT became the first jurisdiction to decriminalize illicit drugs in small quantities
- Residents will not be prosecuted for possessing small amounts of drugs
- Drugs decriminalized include cocaine, speed and MDMA among six others
The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in the country to decriminalize small quantities of illicit drugs.
Residents found with personal use of nine different types of drugs, including cocaine, speed and MDMA, will not be prosecuted.
Instead, they will be warned, fined or referred to a diversion program.
The amendment to the Drugs of Addiction (Personal Use) Bill was passed in Parliament on Thursday and will come into effect next year.
The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in the country to decriminalize small quantities of illegal drugs (stock image)
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said focusing on harm minimization rather than punishing drug users was the way forward.
“ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing harm caused by illicit drugs, focusing on diversion, access to treatment and rehabilitation, and reducing the stigma associated with drug use,” she said.
“This sensible reform is based on the expert advice that a health-focused, harm-reduction approach delivers the best outcomes for people who use drugs.”
There will be a 12-month transition period, meaning the laws will not come into effect until October 2023.
The government said it would use the transition period to strengthen oversight arrangements and train frontline workers, including police.
Backbencher Michael Pettersson praised the move after first presenting the bill to parliament in July 2021.
“Today is an important day,” he said. ‘Today’s bill is not a radical revolution; it is a gradual development of our existing laws.’
Residents found with personal use of nine different types of drugs, including cocaine, speed and MDMA, will not face prosecution (stock image)
The ACT already has laws that allow residents to possess and grow small amounts of cannabis.
“Today we have expanded that framework,” Mr. Pettersson said.
‘The many benefits of that scheme over many years will now be applied to a wider range of drugs that will trap more Canberrans – with the ultimate aim of making it easier for them to access the help they need.’
Canberra Liberals deputy leader Jeremy Hanson condemned the ‘radical’ move.
‘It was not taken to society. It will lead to more crime. It will lead to more carnage on our roads,’ he told the ABC.
‘It’s not going to change the number of people entering the criminal justice system and it’s not going to solve the problem we have now, which is not enough people accessing treatment.’