Australian Capital Territory to decriminalize small amounts of drugs

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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will become the first Australian jurisdiction to decriminalize small amounts of drugs.

Under a bill the government has just approved, those found in possession of amounts deemed to be “personal possession” – the final amounts yet to be defined – would be subject to fines rather than criminal prosecution. .

The move follows recommendations from a Legislative Assembly inquiry into the proposal, which was tabled last year. The government said on Thursday it would support the bill but would make several changes to it, including clarifying the size of the proposed “personal” doses to 2 grams for heroin and cocaine or 0.5 grams for MDMA.

The ACT was also the first – and remains the only – Australian state or territory to legalize the personal use of cannabis.

Drug use is a ‘health issue’, not a criminal matter

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT is leading the country in demonstrating that decriminalization is a better way to protect community wellbeing.

She said the government continues to view illicit drugs as harmful and will work to eradicate their supply.

However, he acknowledged that “the harm associated with drug use is a health issue” and that treating drug use as a criminal matter does not help drug addicts.

“It’s damaging to the individual and it doesn’t contribute to community safety,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We know from research and evidence around the world that criminalizing drug users does not reduce drug use, and that treating drug addiction as a health issue improves outcomes for everyone. people in the community. »

“This legislation is part of our policies developed in partnership with experts, people with lived experience to help those who need it most get the help and services they need when they need them. »

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