Government Moves To Decriminalise Small Amounts Of Illicit Drugs

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The ACT Government has agreed to decriminalise small amounts of the most commonly used illicit drugs by introducing a simple drug offence notice.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith tabled the Government Response to the Select Committee Inquiry in to the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021, agreeing to support the Private Member’s Bill introduced by Michael Pettersson MLA with proposed Government amendments to ensure it meets the intent of harm reduction.

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

“The ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs, through diversion, health treatment and reducing the stigma for those most vulnerable and at risk in community and this commitment continues our approach in line with community expectations.

“The Government will ensure through amendments that the principle of harm reduction is front and centre of our approach to this change, by ensuring that discretion for ACT Policing is retained and that diversion is legislated and put on an equal footing with the SDON.

“This legislation is part of our broader suite of policies developed in partnership with experts, people with lived experience and our alcohol and other drug sector to support those most in need to get they help and services they need when they need them.

“In the past three Budgets, an additional $20 million has been invested to upgrade treatment facilities, begin the construction of new facilities and expand life-saving programs like the needle-syringe program and primary care outreach services delivered for those most in need. The Government will continue to invest in this sector including through the delivery of a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential rehabilitation facility, static pill testing pilot and more dedicated and targeted services.

“I acknowledge the advocacy, passion and expertise of all those who shared their personal stories and experiences with the Select Committee examining the Bill, and I thank ACT Policing and the ACT Health Directorate for their collaboration to ensure the best results for our community.”

The Government agreed with eight recommendations, agreed-in-principle with eight recommendations and noted one.

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