Canberra Set To Decriminalise 'Small Amounts' Of Drugs
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
A proposed law in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) could see small quantities of drugs like heroin, cocaine, and speed decriminalised.
The new law is an effort to crack down on professional drug dealers, who are in possession of amounts larger than what would be considered 'personal possession'.
The ACT, which includes Canberra, is the only region in Australia to have decriminalised the use of cannabis for personal means.
Speaking of the bill, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that treating personal drug use as a criminal act doesn't help anyone.
"It's harmful to that individual and it doesn't help to keep the community safe," she explained, as reported by ABC
"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.
"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 the help and services they need when they need them."
The new law would follow suit of the 2020 law that allowed possession of up to 50 grams of weed per household in Australia.
So far, that law seems to have been a success, with Devin Bowles, chief exec at the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT, saying: "Overall, we found cannabis use hasn't changed and, in some ways, that's the big story, because there were really dire predictions at the outset.
"The sky hasn't fallen and people who need to access treatment are better able to do so while the taxpayer is saving money. It's a win-win."
Police figures seemed to confirm Bowles' sentiments, with Simple Cannabis Offence Notices dropping by nearly 90 percent.
However, not everyone is supportive of the decriminalisation, with federal health minister Greg Hunt writing to chief minister Andrew Barr about the potentially negative impacts of decriminalisation on mental health.
In 2021 he said of the cannabis laws: "I have serious concerns the ACT's legislation will result in further health harms and exacerbate mental health issues."
However, the man behind the 2020 and new legislation, MLA Michael Peterson, thinks that the legislation is a move in the right direction.
"Treating drug use as a crime hasn't stopped drug use, treating drug use as a public health problem is the best way we can go about reducing drug use in our society," he said.