Greens call for bolder approach to drug decriminalisation

2022-08-01

Tomorrow Johnathan Davis MLA will call for a more progressive approach to drug law reform as part of the debate on the ‘Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021’.

“The ACT Greens have always championed drug law reform because we know that a compassionate society supports our most vulnerable, and that drug use should be considered a health issue, not a criminal one,” said Johnathan Davis MLA, ACT Greens Spokesperson for Drug Harm Reduction.

“The Government’s amendments as they stand will create a new arbitrary possession threshold that will retain criminal penalties. In doing so, they risk continuing to criminalise vulnerable people in our community who need the most support and the most compassion. 

“These thresholds ignore the strong evidence base we have that the existing thresholds we have for this purpose. 

“We need to go boldly in our approach to reform on this very important issue. Our amendments will retain current, evidence-based possession thresholds and bring about a health-based response to drug use rather than a criminal one. 

“The Greens’ amendments have been developed in close consultation with researchers, clinicians, drug policy experts, people with lived experience, and their families and friends. 

“My amendments support the evidence, protect the most vulnerable, and uphold the integrity of this reform.”

Stakeholder Quotes:

Dr Will Tregoning, Unharm:

“Decriminalisation should make the ACT a fairer place where it’s easier for people to access support when they need it. Labor risks doing more harm than good with the same outdated punishment that the evidence and the community reject. Fines and prison sentences will have the biggest impact on people who are poor, people experiencing homelessness, and Aboriginal people who are already overrepresented in the criminal justice system.”

Dr Emma Campbell, ACT Council of Social Services:

We welcome the ACT Government’s introduction of legislation to decriminalise personal use of certain drugs. The Greens amendments represent an opportunity to continue an important debate about drug use as a human rights and health issue, rather than a criminal one. We want to ensure this legislation works as it is intended – to reduce harm to individuals, families and the community – and does not perpetuate disadvantage in our communities.”

Marion McConnell OAM, Family and Friends of Drug Law Reform:

“Our justice system should be here to help people not make their lives worse. Our community supports real decriminalisation - that means a health approach - no fines or jail sentences for drug possession.”  

Chris Gough, CAHMA:

“Canberrans do not want individuals whose only perceived transgression is personal drug use to be forced into further disadvantage that can trap them in poverty, mental health issues, or drug dependency. There is a growing understanding that the harms of drug criminalisation are more acute for different groups in society, with the majority of the harms focused on groups where other forms of marginalisation exist. 

The ACT currently has personal possession limits which are based on community consultation and reflect the real and actual quantities of drugs that people possess for personal use. These should be the limits set in this legislation.” 

CAHMA Submission to the Select Committee Inquiry.

ENDS

Background:

  • Please see our FAQ document about the Greens amendments.