In February this yr, Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson launched a non-public members invoice to take away legal penalties for possession of small quantities of some illicit medication within the Australian Capital Territory.
This may look like a radical step to some, however researchers and well being professionals have been calling for this reform for a while.
Most Australians assist decriminalisation and a much less punitive strategy to drug use.
The invoice is at present earlier than a parliamentary committee that can have a look at the proof and submissions from professionals, individuals who use medication and most people, and can report again in October this yr.
How will decriminalisation work?
Drug decriminalisation isn’t the identical as legalisation. Decriminalisation means it’s nonetheless unlawful, however chances are you’ll get a advantageous, quite than a legal cost. On this case, the proposal is for decriminalisation of use and possession solely. Manufacturing and promoting will nonetheless be a legal offence.
Possession of hashish has already been decriminalised within the ACT since 1992. Pettersson additionally launched a invoice that got here into impact in 2020, which went one step additional. It allowed grownup residents within the ACT to legally develop and possess small quantities of hashish for private use.
Possession of hashish has additionally been decriminalised in South Australia and the Northern Territory for almost 30 years.
Extra Australians again legalising hashish and 57% assist tablet testing, nationwide survey exhibits
If the brand new laws passes, possession of small quantities of a restricted variety of illicit medication will now not be a legal offence. They are going to be decriminalised, like hashish was between 1992 and 2020 within the ACT.
If somebody is present in possession of illicit medication, and the quantity is below the “private possession restrict”, they danger a civil advantageous of 1 penalty unit ($160). The present legal penalty is a most advantageous of fifty penalty items ($8,000) or two years of imprisonment or each.
This implies individuals who use medication can keep away from a legal report in the event that they pay the civil penalty inside prescribed time interval — slightly like a dashing advantageous.
The proposed private restrict for possession is 0.5 grams of MDMA, 0.002 grams of LSD, and two grams of cocaine, amphetamines, psylocibin and heroin. These are a lot decrease ranges than the present definitions of “private use” within the ACT.
Why decriminalise medication?
Australia’s official nationwide drug coverage contains lowering harms from authorized and unlawful medication. Efforts to cut back harms from illicit medication are severely hindered as a result of possession and use is a legal offence.
The authorized standing of some medication has extra to do with historical past than danger of hurt. In truth, a few of the main harms from utilizing illicit medication are as a result of they’re unlawful.
Historical past, not hurt, dictates why some medication are authorized and others aren’t
One of many greatest harms from illicit drug use is having a legal report for possessing small quantities of a drug for private use. Most individuals who use illicit medication achieve this very sometimes and solely in small quantities, and aren’t dependent nor do they want remedy. A legal report can have a long-lasting adverse affect on an individual’s future, together with on their profession and their capability to journey.
Making them a legal offence additionally means there may be loads of stigma hooked up to utilizing these medication. We all know stigma makes it tougher for individuals to hunt assist after they want it.
There aren’t any clear advantages from criminalisation of illicit medication. Within the justice system, a considerable amount of money and time is spent on addressing drug-related offences. Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has famous: “drug legislation enforcement has had little affect on the Australian drug market”. There’s no proof criminalisation has lowered use of illicit medication.
Decriminalisation considerably reduces the involvement of the justice system and permits present assets to be higher used to assist remedy for individuals who want it, or to focus justice system efforts elsewhere.
Analysis of drug decriminalisation in different international locations, equivalent to Portugal, has discovered it will increase the variety of individuals accessing alcohol and drug remedy and doesn’t lead to elevated drug use.
Within the Northern Territory, South Australia and ACT, hashish use didn’t improve when decriminalisation was launched 30 years in the past. Charges of use aren’t any increased than different states. This means there are extra advantages than dangers to decriminalisation.
Lately, the state of Oregon in the USA decriminalised all medication for private use following a vote by residents.
Oregon simply decriminalized all medication – this is why voters handed this groundbreaking reform
Increasingly jurisdictions are shifting in direction of this strategy. Decriminalisation of illicit medication is the pure conclusion to many years of analysis on drug-related harms.
Nicole Lee works as a guide within the alcohol and different drug sector and a psychologist in personal observe. She has beforehand been awarded funding by Australian and state governments, NHMRC and different our bodies for analysis and analysis into drug prevention and remedy. She at present holds grants and tenders from the Australian Authorities, and a number of other state and territory governments. She is a member of the Australian Authorities's Australian Nationwide Advisory Council on Alcohol and different Medicine, a member of the board of administrators of Good day Sunday Morning and volunteers with The Loop Australia.
Jarryd Bartle is a guide to the alcohol and different drug sector